Volkswagen AG and the companies in which it is directly or indirectly invested are involved in a substantial number of legal disputes and governmental proceedings in Germany and abroad. Such legal disputes and other proceedings occur, among other things, in relation to or in connection with employees, public authorities, services, dealers, investors, customers, suppliers, products, or other contracting parties. For the companies in question, these disputes and proceedings may result in payments such as fines or in other obligations or consequences. In particular, substantial compensatory or punitive damages may have to be paid and cost-intensive measures may have to be implemented. In this context, specific estimation of the objectively likely consequences is often possible only to a very limited extent, if at all.
Risks may also emerge in connection with the adherence to regulatory requirements. This particularly applies in the case of regulatory gray areas where Volkswagen and the authorities responsible for the respective regulations may interpret the regulations differently. In addition, legal risks can arise from the criminal activities of individual persons, which even the best compliance management system can never completely prevent.
Where transparent and economically viable, adequate insurance coverage was taken out for these risks. For the identifiable and measurable risks, provisions considered appropriate based on existing information were recognized and information about contingent liabilities disclosed. As some risks cannot be assessed or can only be assessed to a limited extent, the possibility of material loss or damage not covered by the insured amounts and provisions cannot be ruled out. This applies particularly to legal risk assessment regarding the diesel issue.
On September 18, 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly announced in a “Notice of Violation” that irregularities in relation to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions had been discovered in emissions tests on certain Volkswagen Group vehicles with type 2.0 l diesel engines in the USA. In this context, Volkswagen AG announced that noticeable discrepancies between the figures achieved in testing and in actual road use had been identified in around eleven million vehicles worldwide with type EA 189 diesel engines. On November 2, 2015, the EPA issued a “Notice of Violation” alleging that irregularities had also been discovered in the software installed in US vehicles with type V6 3.0 l diesel engines.
Numerous court and governmental proceedings were subsequently initiated in various countries. We have since succeeded in making substantial progress and ending many of these proceedings.
In the USA, Volkswagen AG and certain affiliates reached settlement agreements with various government authorities and private plaintiffs, the latter represented by a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in a multidistrict litigation in the US state of California. These agreements resolved certain civil claims as well as criminal charges under US federal law and the laws of certain US states in connection with the diesel issue. As part of the agreements entered into with the US Department of Justice and the State of California (Plea Agreement and Third Partial Consent Decrees), a Compliance Monitor and Compliance Auditor was appointed for Volkswagen in 2017 for a term of three years. Although Volkswagen AG and its subsidiaries and affiliates are firmly committed to fulfilling the obligations arising from these agreements, a breach of these obligations cannot be completely ruled out. In the event of a violation, significant penalties could be imposed as stipulated in the agreements, in addition to the possibility of further monetary fines, criminal sanctions and injunctive relief.
The diesel issue is rooted in a modification of parts of the software of the relevant engine control units – which, according to Volkswagen AG’s legal position, is only unlawful under US law – for the type EA 189 diesel engines that Volkswagen AG was developing at that time. The decision to develop and install this software function was taken in late 2006 below Board of Management level. None of the members of the Board of Management had, at that time and for several years to follow, knowledge of the development and implementation of this software function.
In the months following publication of a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation in May 2014, Volkswagen AG’s Powertrain Development department checked the test set-ups on which the study was based for plausibility, confirming the unusually high NOx emissions from certain US vehicles with type EA 189 2.0 l diesel engines. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) – a part of the environmental authority of California – was informed of this result, and, at the same time, an offer was made to recalibrate the engine control unit software of type EA 189 diesel engines in the USA as part of a service measure that was already planned in the USA. This measure was evaluated and adopted by the Ausschuss für Produktsicherheit (APS – Product Safety Committee), which initiates necessary and appropriate measures to ensure the safety and conformity of Volkswagen AG products that have been placed in the market. There are no findings that an unlawful “defeat device” under US law was disclosed to the APS as the cause of the discrepancies or to the persons responsible for preparing the 2014 annual and consolidated financial statements. Instead, at the time the 2014 annual and consolidated financial statements were being prepared, the persons responsible for preparing the 2014 annual and consolidated financial statements remained under the impression that the issue could be solved with comparatively little effort.
In the course of the summer of 2015, however, it became successively apparent to individual members of Volkswagen AG’s Board of Management that the cause of the discrepancies in the USA was a modification of parts of the software of the engine control unit, which was later identified as an unlawful “defeat device” as defined by US law. This culminated in the disclosure of a “defeat device” to EPA and CARB on September 3, 2015. According to the assessment at that time of the responsible persons dealing with the matter, the scope of the costs expected by the Volkswagen Group (recall costs, retrofitting costs and financial penalties) was not fundamentally dissimilar to that in previous cases involving other vehicle manufacturers, and, therefore, appeared to be controllable overall with a view to the business activities of the Volkswagen Group. This assessment by the Volkswagen Group was based, among other things, on the advice of a law firm engaged in the USA for approval issues, according to which similar cases in the past were resolved amicably with the US authorities. The EPA's publication of the “Notice of Violation” on September 18, 2015, which the Board of Management had not expected, especially at that time, then presented the situation in an entirely different light.
The AUDI AG Board of Management members in office at the time in question have likewise stated that they had no knowledge of the use of “defeat device” software that was prohibited by US law in the type V6 3.0 l TDI engines until the EPA issued its November 2015 “Notice of Violation.”
Within the Volkswagen Group, Volkswagen AG has development responsibility for the four-cylinder diesel engines such as the type EA 189, and AUDI AG has development responsibility for the six- and eight-cylinder diesel engines such as the type V6 3.0 l and V8 4.2 l diesel engines.
In agreement with the respective responsible authorities, the Volkswagen Group is making technical measures available worldwide for virtually all diesel vehicles with type EA 189 engines. Within its area of responsibility, the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA – German Federal Motor Transport Authority) ascertained for all clusters (groups of vehicles) that implementation of the technical measures would not bring about any adverse changes in fuel consumption figures, CO2 emission figures, engine output, maximum torque, and noise emissions.
Following the studies carried out by AUDI AG to check all relevant diesel concepts for possible irregularities and retrofit potentials, measures proposed by AUDI AG have been adopted and mandated by the KBA in various recall orders pertaining to vehicle models with V6 and V8 TDI engines. Currently, AUDI AG assumes that the total cost, including the amount based on recalls, of the ongoing largely software-based retrofit program that began in July 2017 will be manageable and has recognized corresponding balance-sheet risk provisions. AUDI AG has in the meantime developed software updates for many of the affected powertrains and, after approval by the KBA, already installed these in the vehicles of a large number of affected customers. The approvals that are still outstanding are expected in the course of 2020.
In connection with the diesel issue, potential consequences for Volkswagen’s results of operations, financial position and net assets could emerge primarily in the following legal areas:
1. Criminal and administrative proceedings worldwide (excluding the USA/Canada)
Criminal investigations, regulatory offense proceedings, and/or administrative proceedings have been opened in some countries (in Germany for example by the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht, BaFin – Federal Financial Supervisory Authority). The public prosecutor’s offices in Braunschweig and Munich are investigating the core issues of the criminal investigations.
In April 2019, the Braunschweig Office of the Public Prosecutor issued indictments, including one against a former Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, charging, among other things, fraud relating to Type EA 189 engines in connection with the diesel issue.
In September 2019, the Braunschweig Office of the Public Prosecutor furthermore indicted the current and a former Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG as well as a former member of its Board of Management (currently Chairman of the Supervisory Board) on charges of market manipulation relating to capital market disclosure obligations in connection with the diesel issue. The Public Prosecutor’s Office also requested that the court name Volkswagen AG as a collateral participant in the proceedings.
In July 2019, the Munich II Office of the Public Prosecutor issued indictments, including one against the former Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, charging, among other things, fraud relating to 3.0 TDI engines in connection with the diesel issue.
Based on the information available at the present time, no change in the risk situation of the Volkswagen Group results from these indictments.
The Stuttgart Office of the Public Prosecutor is conducting a criminal investigation relating to the diesel issue on suspicion of fraud and illegal advertising that also involves a member of the Board of Management of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.
The respective Group companies appointed renowned law firms to clarify the matters underlying the public prosecutor’s accusations. The Board of Management and Supervisory Board receive regular updates on the current status.
In an administrative fine order issued on May 7, 2019, the Stuttgart Office of the Public Prosecutor terminated the regulatory offense proceeding conducted against Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG in connection with the diesel issue by finding a negligent breach of the obligation to supervise occurring in the organizational unit “Prüffeld Entwicklung Gesamtfahrzeug/Qualität” (Overall Vehicle Development/Quality - Testing Facility). The administrative order imposes a total fine of €535 million, consisting of a penalty payment of €4 million and the forfeiture of economic benefits in the amount of €531 million. After thorough examination, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG has accepted the fine and paid it in full, rendering the administrative fine order legally final. Further sanctions against or forfeitures by Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG are therefore not to be expected in Europe in connection with the unitary factual situation underlying the administrative fine order.
As the type approval authority of proper jurisdiction, the KBA moreover continuously tests Audi, VW, and Porsche brand vehicles for problematic functions. If certain functions are deemed impermissible by the KBA, the affected vehicles are recalled pursuant to a recall order or they are brought back into compliance by means of a voluntary service measure.
Furthermore, additional administrative actions relating to the diesel issue are ongoing in other jurisdictions.
The companies of the Volkswagen Group continue to cooperate with the government authorities.
Whether the criminal and administrative proceedings will ultimately result in fines or other consequences for the Company, and if so what amounts these may entail, is currently subject to estimation risks. According to Volkswagen’s estimates, the likelihood that a sanction will be imposed is 50% or less in the majority of these proceedings. Contingent liabilities have therefore been disclosed where the amount of such liabilities could be measured and the likelihood of a sanction being imposed was assessed at not lower than 10%. Provisions were recognized to a small extent.
2. Product-related lawsuits worldwide (excluding the USA/Canada)
In principle, it is possible that customers in the affected markets will file civil lawsuits or that importers and dealers will assert recourse claims against Volkswagen AG and other Volkswagen Group companies. Besides individual lawsuits, various forms of collective actions (i.e. assertion of individual claims by plaintiffs acting jointly or as representatives of a class) are available in various jurisdictions. Furthermore, in a number of markets it is possible for consumer and/or environmental organizations to bring suit to enforce alleged rights to injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, or damages.
Customer class action lawsuits and actions brought by consumer and/or environmental organizations are pending against Volkswagen AG and other Volkswagen Group companies in a number of countries including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Alleged rights to damages and other relief are asserted in these actions. The pending actions include in particular the following:
In Australia, various class action lawsuits with opt-out provisions are currently pending against Volkswagen AG and other Volkswagen Group companies, including the Australian subsidiaries. Given the opt-out rule, the class actions have the potential to automatically cover all vehicles with type EA 189 engines unless the right to opt out is actively exercised. In all, approximately 100 thousand vehicles in the Australian market with type EA 189 engines are affected. In December 2019 Volkswagen AG reached agreements with the Australian class action plaintiffs that would terminate the litigation. The court must still approve the settlement. Depending on the number of claims filed under the class action settlement, Volkswagen AG anticipates payment of an amount of up to AUD 127.1 million plus litigation costs to settle the class action lawsuits. Two civil suits filed against Volkswagen AG and other Group companies by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) were settled in the second half of 2019. The settlement is not yet legally final, however, as an appellate court has yet to rule on the amount of the fine. Depending on the appellate court decision, Volkswagen AG anticipates payment of a fine of up to AUD 125 million plus litigation costs.
In Belgium, the Belgian consumer organization Test Aankoop VZW has filed a class action to which an opt-out mechanism has been held to apply. The class action pertains to vehicles purchased by consumers on the Belgian market after September 1, 2014. The asserted claims are based on purported violations of unfair competition and consumer protection law as well as on alleged breach of contract.
In Brazil two class actions are pending. One of these pertains to approximately 17 thousand vehicles. In this litigation, an appeals judgment was rendered in May 2019 that only partially upheld the lower court's decision. This judgment initially reduced the damage liability of Volkswagen do Brasil considerably to around BRL 172 million plus interest. This amount can increase as a result of the adjudicated inflation rate and the assertion of individual claims alleging declines in the value of affected Amarok vehicles. The judgment remains non-final. In the second class action, compensation claims are made based on purported breaches of environmental regulations.
In Germany, the Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. (Federation of Consumer Organizations) filed an action in November 2018 with the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court for model declaratory judgment against Volkswagen AG. The complaint is seeking a ruling that certain preconditions for potential consumer claims against Volkswagen AG are met; however, no specific payment obligations would result from any determinations the court may make. Individual claims would have to be established afterwards in subsequent separate proceedings. Oral argument in the consumer action for model declaratory judgment began in September 2019. Volkswagen AG intends to offer individual settlements to consumers who registered claims under the action for model declaratory judgment and meet the settlement criteria. The volume of such settlements amounts to approximately €830 million.
In addition, various actions have been brought against companies of the Volkswagen Group in several German Regional Courts by financialright GmbH, which is asserting rights assigned to it by a total of approximately 45 thousand customers in Germany, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
In England and Wales, suits filed in court by various law firms have been joined in a single collective action (group litigation). Because of the opt-in mechanism, not all vehicles with type EA 189 engines are automatically covered by the group litigation; potential claimants must instead take action in order to join. To date some 90 thousand plaintiffs have registered claims under the group litigation. The group litigation opt-in period has expired.
In Italy, a class action lawsuit filed by the consumer association Altroconsumo on behalf of Italian customers is pending before the Venice Regional Court. This litigation involves damage claims based on alleged breach of contract as well as claims based on purported violations of Italian consumer protection law. Some 82 thousand customers have registered for the class action, whereby the validity of roughly half of the registrations is still unclear. In Italy, the court decision dismissing the class action filed by the consumer association Codacons as inadmissible also became legally final in the reporting year.
In the Netherlands, Stichting Volkswagen Car Claim has brought an opt-out class action seeking declaratory rulings. Any individual claims would then have to be established afterwards in separate proceedings. In November 2019, the Regional Court in Amsterdam held the requests for relief to be inadmissible in part. Oral argument on the merits of the class action will take place in 2020.
A Portuguese consumer organization has filed a class action with opt-out mechanism in Portugal. There are potentially up to approximately 139 thousand vehicles affected in the Portuguese market. The complaint seeks vehicle return and alleges damages as well.
In South Africa, an opt-out class action seeking damages is pending that pertains to some 8 thousand vehicles with V6 and V8 TDI engines in addition to approximately 72 thousand vehicles with type EA 189 engines.
Furthermore, individual lawsuits and similar proceedings are pending against Volkswagen AG and other Volkswagen Group companies in various countries, most of which are seeking damages or rescission of the purchase contract. In Germany, there are over 70 thousand such individual lawsuits.
Volkswagen estimates the likelihood that the plaintiffs will prevail to be 50% or less in the great majority of customer class actions, complaints filed by consumer and/or environmental organizations, and individual lawsuits. Contingent liabilities are disclosed for these proceedings where the amount of such liabilities can be measured and the chance that the plaintiff will prevail was assessed as not implausible. Since most of these proceedings are still in an early stage, it is in many cases not yet possible to quantify the realistic risk exposure. In addition, provisions were recognized to the extent necessary based on the current assessment.
At this time it cannot be estimated how many customers will choose to file lawsuits in the future in addition to those already pending, given the consumer action for model declaratory judgment in Germany, among other things, and what their prospect of success will be.
3. Lawsuits filed by investors worldwide (excluding the USA/Canada)
Investors from Germany and abroad have filed claims for damages against Volkswagen AG – in some cases along with Porsche Automobil Holding SE (Porsche SE) as joint and several debtors – based on purported losses due to alleged misconduct in capital market communications in connection with the diesel issue.
The vast majority of these investor lawsuits are currently pending at the Regional Court in Braunschweig. In August 2016, the Regional Court in Braunschweig ordered that common questions of law and fact relevant to the lawsuits pending at the Regional Court in Braunschweig be referred to the Higher Regional Court in Braunschweig for binding declaratory rulings pursuant to the Kapitalanleger-Musterverfahrensgesetz (KapMuG – German Act on Model Case Proceedings in Disputes Regarding Capital Market Information). In this proceeding, common questions of law and fact relevant to these actions are to be adjudicated in a consolidated manner by the Higher Regional Court in Braunschweig (model case proceedings). All lawsuits at the Regional Court in Braunschweig will be stayed pending resolution of the common issues, unless the cases can be dismissed for reasons independent of the common issues that are to be adjudicated in the model case proceedings. The resolution in the model case proceedings of the common questions of law and fact will be binding for all pending cases that have been stayed in the described manner. Oral argument in the model case proceedings before the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court began in September 2018 and will be continued at subsequent hearings.
At the Regional Court in Stuttgart, further investor lawsuits have been filed against Volkswagen AG, in some cases along with Porsche SE as joint and several debtor.
Holding that the factual situation at issue is by and large already covered by the model case proceedings being heard by the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court and that these proceedings, being paramount in this regard, preclude further such actions, the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court in March 2019 refused to proceed with further capital investor model case proceedings (which include Porsche SE) that had been referred to it by the Stuttgart Regional Court. The plaintiff side has appealed one of these decisions to the Federal Court of Justice.
Further investor lawsuits have been filed at various courts in Germany and the Netherlands. Worldwide (excluding USA and Canada), investor lawsuits, judicial applications for dunning procedures and conciliation proceedings, and claims under the KapMuG are currently pending against Volkswagen AG in connection with the diesel issue, with the claims totaling roughly €9.6 billion.
Volkswagen AG remains of the opinion that it duly complied with its capital market obligations. Therefore, no provisions have been recognized for these investor lawsuits. Insofar as the chance of success was estimated at not lower than 10%, contingent liabilities have been disclosed.
4. Proceedings in the USA/Canada
In the USA and Canada, the matters described in the EPA’s “Notices of Violation” are the subject of various types of lawsuits and requests for information that have been filed in particular by customers, investors, salespersons, and various government agencies in Canada and the United States, including the attorneys general of several US states, against Volkswagen AG and other Volkswagen Group companies.
In the fiscal year, Volkswagen AG and certain affiliates settled the consumer protection claims asserted by the Attorney General of the US state of New Mexico, the last remaining state asserting consumer protection claims.
The attorneys general of five US states (Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas) and some municipalities have suits pending in state and federal courts against Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and certain affiliates, alleging violations of environmental laws. In the fiscal year, the environmental claims of two US states – Alabama and Tennessee – were dismissed in full by trial or appellate courts as preempted by federal law with no possibility of further appeal and the New Mexico Attorney General voluntarily dismissed its environmental claims. The claims asserted by Illinois, Hillsborough County (Florida), and Salt Lake County (Utah) have been dismissed in full, but the dismissals have been appealed. Certain claims asserted by Ohio, Texas, and two Texas counties have also been dismissed, but these suits are currently proceeding as to other claims.
In March 2019, the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen Group of America Finance, LLC, VW Credit, Inc. and a former Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, asserting claims under US federal securities law based among other things on alleged misstatements and omissions in connection with the offer and sale of certain bonds and asset-backed securities.
Furthermore, in December 2019, the Canadian federal environmental regulator filed charges against Volkswagen AG in respect of 2.0 l and 3.0 l Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles at the conclusion of its criminal enforcement-related investigation into the diesel emissions issue. Volkswagen AG cooperated with the investigation and agreed to a plea resolution addressing all of the charges. In January 2020, Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to pay a penalty of CAD 196.5 million, which was approved by the court. Following this approval, the Ontario provincial environmental regulator withdrew its action against Volkswagen AG as to a quasi-criminal enforcement-related offense with respect to certain Volkswagen and Audi 2.0 l diesel vehicles. Additionally, a certified environmental class action is pending on behalf of residents in Quebec. This action was authorized on the sole issue of whether punitive damages could be recovered. The appeals filed by Volkswagen were denied. The case remains in the early stages.
To the extent a matter is not separately described above, an assessment is not yet possible at the current stage of the proceedings or has, in accordance with IAS 37.92, not been presented so as not to compromise the results of the proceedings and the interests of the Company.
5. Additional proceedings
With its ruling of November 8, 2017, the Higher Regional Court of Celle ordered, upon the request of three US funds, the appointment of a special auditor for Volkswagen AG. The special auditor is to examine whether there was a breach of duties on the part of the members of the Board of Management and Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG in connection with the diesel issue on or after June 22, 2006 and, if so, whether this resulted in damages for Volkswagen AG. The ruling by the Higher Regional Court of Celle is formally unappealable. However, Volkswagen AG has filed a constitutional complaint with the German Federal Constitutional Court alleging infringement of its constitutionally guaranteed rights. It is currently unclear when the Federal Constitutional Court will reach a decision on this matter. Following the formally unappealable ruling from the Higher Regional Court of Celle, the special auditor appointed by the court indicated that he was not available to conduct the special audit on grounds of age. In June 2019, the Hanover Regional Court denied the motion filed by the US funds to replace the special auditor. The opposing side has appealed this denial to the Celle Higher Regional Court; this appeal is still pending.
In addition, a second motion seeking appointment of a special auditor for Volkswagen AG to examine matters relating to the diesel issue has been filed with the Regional Court of Hanover. This proceeding has been stayed pending a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court in the initial special auditor litigation.
6. Risk assessment regarding the diesel issue
An amount of around €2.9 billion (previous year: €2.4 billion) has been included in the provisions for litigation and legal risks as of December 31, 2019 to protect against the currently known legal risks related to the diesel issue based on existing information and current assessments. Insofar as these can be adequately measured at this stage, contingent liabilities relating to the diesel issue were disclosed in the notes in an aggregate amount of €3.7 billion (previous year: €5.4 billion), whereby €3.4 billion (previous year: €3.4 billion) of this amount results from lawsuits filed by investors in Germany. The provisions recognized and the contingent liabilities disclosed as well as the other latent legal risks in the context of the diesel issue are in part subject to substantial estimation risks given that the fact-finding efforts have not yet been concluded, the complexity of the individual relevant factors and the ongoing coordination with the authorities. Should these legal or estimation risks materialize, this could result in further substantial financial charges. In particular, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the provisions recognized may have to be adjusted in light of knowledge acquired or future events.
Based on the information as it exists and has been established, there continue to be no conclusive findings or assessments available to the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG regarding the described facts that would suggest that a different assessment of the associated risks should have been made.
In line with IAS 37.92, no further statements have been made concerning estimates of financial impact or about uncertainty regarding the amount or maturity of provisions and contingent liabilities in relation to the diesel issue. This is so as to not compromise the results of the proceedings or the interests of the Company.
Additional important legal cases
In 2011, ARFB Anlegerschutz UG (haftungsbeschränkt) brought an action against Volkswagen AG and Porsche SE for claims for damages for allegedly violating disclosure requirements under capital market law in connection with the acquisition of ordinary shares in Volkswagen AG by Porsche SE in 2008. The damages currently being sought based on allegedly assigned rights amounted to approximately €2.26 billion plus interest. In April 2016, the Regional Court in Hanover had formulated numerous objects of declaratory judgment that the cartel senate of the Higher Regional Court in Celle will decide on in model case proceedings under the KapMuG. In the first hearing in October 2017 the court already indicated that it currently does not see claims against Volkswagen AG as justified, both for want of sufficiently specific pleadings and for reasons of law. Volkswagen AG sees the statements of the court’s senate as confirmation that the claims made against the Company have absolutely no basis.
At the time in question (2010/2011), other investors had also asserted claims – including claims against Volkswagen AG – arising out of the same circumstances in an approximate total amount of €4.6 billion and initiated conciliation proceedings. Volkswagen AG always refused to participate in these conciliation proceedings; since then, these claims have not been pursued further.
In Brazil, the Brazilian tax authorities commenced tax proceedings against MAN Latin America; at issue in these proceedings are the tax consequences of the acquisition structure chosen for MAN Latin America in 2009. In December 2017, a second instance judgment that was negative for MAN Latin America was rendered in administrative court proceedings. MAN Latin America initiated proceedings against this judgment before the regular court in 2018. Due to the difference in the penalties plus interest which could potentially apply under Brazilian law, the estimated size of the risk in the event that the tax authorities are able to prevail overall with their view is laden with uncertainty. However, a positive outcome continues to be expected for MAN Latin America. Should the opposite occur, this could result in a risk of about €0.7 billion for the contested period from 2009 onwards, which has been stated within the contingent liabilities in the notes.
In 2011, the European Commission conducted searches at European truck manufacturers on suspicion of an unlawful exchange of information during the period 1997–2011 and issued a statement of objections to MAN, Scania and the other truck manufacturers concerned in November 2014. With its settlement decision in July 2016, the European Commission fined five European truck manufacturers. MAN’s fine was waived in full as the company had informed the European Commission about the irregularities as a key witness.
In September 2017, the European Commission fined Scania €0.88 billion. Scania has appealed to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and will use all means at its disposal to defend itself. Scania had already recognized a provision of €0.4 billion in 2016.
Furthermore, antitrust lawsuits for damages were received from customers. As is the case in any antitrust proceedings, this may result in further lawsuits for damages. Neither provisions nor contingent liabilities were stated because the early stage of proceedings makes an assessment currently impossible.
In April 2019 the European Commission issued a statement of objections to Volkswagen AG, AUDI AG, and Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG in connection with the Commission's antitrust investigation of the automobile industry. These objections state the European Commission's preliminary evaluation of the matter and afford the opportunity to comment. The subject matter of the proceedings is limited to the cooperation of German automobile manufacturers on technical questions in connection with the development and introduction of SCR systems and gasoline particulate filters for passenger cars that were sold in the European Economic Area. The manufacturers are not charged with any other misconduct such as price fixing or allocating markets and customers. After receiving access to the investigation files starting in July 2019, Volkswagen in December 2019 filed its reply to the European Commission's statement of objections. In the same matter, the Chinese Competition Authority has also issued information requests to Volkswagen AG, AUDI AG, and Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, and commenced an administrative action.
In the proceedings against a number of captive automobile finance companies regarding potential competition law infringements (alleged exchange of competitively sensitive information), the Italian Competition Authority assessed a fine of €163 million against Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Bank GmbH in January 2019. Provisions were recognized by Volkswagen Bank GmbH. Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Bank GmbH filed an appeal against this decision in March 2019. In the same context, an antitrust class action lawsuit has furthermore been filed by customers in Italy against Volkswagen Bank GmbH, among others.
In June 2019, the US District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed two putative class action complaints brought by purchasers of German luxury vehicles alleging that, since the 1990s, several automobile manufacturers, including Volkswagen AG and other Group companies conspired to unlawfully increase the prices of German luxury vehicles in violation of US antitrust and consumer protection law. The court held that the plaintiffs have not stated a claim for relief because the allegations in the complaints do not plausibly support the alleged anticompetitive agreements. Plaintiffs filed amended complaints, which Volkswagen moved to dismiss. Plaintiffs in Canada filed claims with similar allegations on behalf of putative classes of purchasers of German luxury vehicles against several automobile manufacturers, including Volkswagen Group Canada Inc., Audi Canada Inc., and other Group companies. Neither provisions nor contingent liabilities were stated because the early stage of proceedings makes an assessment currently impossible.
In addition, a few national and international authorities have initiated antitrust investigations. Volkswagen is cooperating closely with the responsible authorities in these investigations. An assessment of the underlying situation is not possible at this early stage.
Volkswagen has been responding to information requests from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CARB related to automatic transmissions in certain vehicles with gasoline engines. In August 2019, Volkswagen agreed with the EPA to forfeit approximately 220 thousand Greenhouse Gas Emission Credits in response to the EPA’s inquiry. Also in August 2019, Volkswagen and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee announced the settlement of civil claims relating to approximately 98 thousand Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Bentley vehicles. Volkswagen's testing of these vehicles in connection with the information requests resulted in a 1 mile per gallon change, when rounded according to EPA rules, in the fuel economy disclosed on the "Monroney label" required by US regulations. In October 2019, the Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement.
Provisions were recognized by Volkswagen Bank GmbH and Volkswagen Leasing GmbH for possible claims in connection with financial services provided to consumers.
In February 2020, Volkswagen AG and another defendant were served with a lawsuit filed by GT Gettaxi Ltd. The lawsuit in particular alleges large damage claims. Volkswagen will evaluate the alleged claims and defend itself against them.
In addition, various proceedings are pending worldwide, particularly in the USA, in which customers are asserting purported claims either individually or in class actions. These claims are as a rule based on alleged vehicle defects, including defects alleged in vehicle parts supplied to the Volkswagen Group (for instance, in the Takata case).
Risks may also result from actions for infringement of intellectual property, including infringement of patents, trademarks or other third-party rights, particularly in Germany and the USA. These actions pertain among other things to patents for semiconductor technology used in vehicles, but may also extend to control, regulation or power-units, and communications technology as well. If Volkswagen is alleged or determined to have violated third-party intellectual property rights, it may have to pay damages, modify manufacturing processes, or redesign products and may be barred from selling certain products. Volkswagen could also face costly litigation. These risks could lead to delivery and production restrictions or interruptions.
In line with IAS 37.92, no further statements have been made concerning estimates of financial impact or about uncertainty regarding the amount or maturity of provisions and contingent liabilities in relation to additional important legal cases. This is so as to not compromise the results of the proceedings or the interests of the Company.