Former Porsche CEO, CFO face more charges over failed VW takeover

Article by Andrew Christian, on June 25, 2015

Additional charges have been filed against former Porsche SE CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and ex-Chief Financial Officer Holger Haerter for the use of a contentious options strategy in Porsche SE's failed attempt to take over Volkswagen Group in 2008. Their lawyers, Hanns Feigen and Anne Wehnert, released a joint statement to reveal that Stuttgart prosecutors filed a second set of charges against both of them only a few weeks before their July 31 trial date.

The lawyers said that prosecutors were influenced by hedge funds that sued the company. These latest charges are related to an October 2008 press release that revealed that Porsche has decided to acquire VW. In 2012, the charges filed against both were due to market manipulation stemming from the press releases in early 2008 to deny the takeover plan.

Feigen and Wehnert said that for many years, prosecutors didn’t take action due to the October press release. They wrote, “The cause of this irritating swing of opinion is an intervention by hedge funds for whose goals the Stuttgart Prosecution Office now allows itself to be exploited." This case is just one of several lawsuits and investigations that Porsche has been facing ever since it revealed in October 2008 that it sought a takeover of Volkswagen.

Porsche claimed that it had access to 74.1% of VW partly through options. Investors have filed lawsuits against Porsche and are seeking over 5 billion euros (5.7 billion). Spokesman Albrecht Bamler said Porsche has yet to receive the indictment. In its latest reports, the company has said that prosecutors want to name Porsche as a party in this new case.

If these new charges lead to a conviction, the court may seize Porsche’s profits because of its offenses. In a separate statement, Claudia Krauth, spokeswoman for Stuttgart prosecutors, said that Volkswagen’s stock dropped in October 2008 and this resulted to Porsche facing financial pressure due to the options it held.

Krauth said that Wiedeking and Haerter used the October 26 release to manipulate the VW share price since it convinced market participants that there was a free float of just 6%. With this announcement, Volkswagen’s stock skyrocketed as investors scrambled to purchase shares.

She added that this release misled people since at the time, Porsche didn’t say that it won’t have been able to finance the strategy if the price had fallen further. This reasoning is similar to the argument of Elliott International, Perry Partners and two other funds in a related civil suit pending in a Hanover court.

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