The Stuttgart Higher Regional Court has refused access to plaintiffs seeking damages against Porsche SE over its failed takeover of Volkswagen in 2008 to files held by prosecutors in Stuttgart relating to the investigation of former Porsche executives Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Haerter. The court denied Merckle Group unit -- HWO GmbH – and two other companies to prosecutors’ files.
The plaintiffs believe that the files could them win their civil lawsuits against Porsche. The judges said HWO can't be considered a victim of the alleged crimes, writing that investors damaged by market manipulation “aren't victims" under the rules governing access to the files.
The judges wrote that market manipulation rules "do not directly aim to protect the investors, but only the public interest in truth and trustworthiness of price building at stock exchanges."
The court’s ruling proves to be holdup for plaintiffs in the German cases against Porsche SE, which are seeking over EUR5 billion ($6.7 billion) combined. Gaining access to findings by prosecutors in a criminal investigation is considered a way to obtain additional evidence, but German law only provides only limited access to information from parties to lawsuits.
According to Stuttgart court spokesman Stefan Schueler, the tribunal rejected bids by three companies. Porsche SE is facing a number of cases related to its disclosure in October 2008 that it controlled 74.1 percent of VW; was aiming to acquire 75 percent and eventually take it over. Porsche’s announcement caused Volkswagen's shares to soar as short sellers raced to buy shares borrowed in a gamble that VW would collapse. [source: Bloomberg]