Ex-Porsche CEO and CFO charged with market manipulation

Article by Anita Panait, on December 23, 2012

Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Haerter, former chief executive and ex-chief financial officer of Porsche respectively, were charged with market manipulation by Stuttgart prosecutors over the use of options in a botched bid to acquire Volkswagen Group. The pair’s indictment was the result of three years of investigations into claims that Porsche misled investors in 2008 when it denied that it pursued an acquisition of VW.

In October 2008, Porsche disclosed a plan to take control of VW. Claudia Krauth, spokeswoman for Stuttgart prosecutors, said that the investigation found that the suspects, in February 2008 at the latest, decided to increase Porsche's share in Volkswagen to 75 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to prepare a takeover.

In the period between March 10 and October 2, 2008, Porsche denied at least five times that it planned to hike its VW stake to 75 percent, Krauth disclosed. Porsche’s denials in effect influenced VW's share price. The Regional Court of Stuttgart will decide whether the case may proceed.

Haerter is currently facing trial at the same court in a related case that claims he and other Porsche executives made false statements when refinancing a EUR10-billion loan. According to Krauth, the part of the investigations alleging breach of trust was dropped because they couldn't be proved with the "necessary degree of certainty.”

Wiedeking, Haerter and Porsche have denied the allegations. Anne Wehnert and Hanns Feigen, lawyers for the pair, said in a joint statement that the charges against their clients won't succeed. They remarked that dropping the breach of trust probe for lack of evidence is tantamount to an acquittal. The allegations during the probe dropped from 14 to five cases of information-based market manipulation, they added.

In 2005, Porsche disclosed plans to acquire over 20 percent of the VW Group and by the next year, its stake already reached 30 percent. In 2007, Porsche reformed its company structure. The company became a holding company as Porsche Automobil Holding SE -- Porsche SE – and its operating activities would be housed under a a new company Porsche AG.

By 2008, Porsche SE already owned 42.6 percent of VW shares and still has options to acquire another 31.5 percent. That year, Porsche SE disclosed intentions to further increase its stake in VW Group to around 75 percent.

The world started to suffer from a global financial crisis in fall 2008, and by then Porsche SE wasn’t able to borrow money to finance the acquisition of the stake. In fact, banks had started to call in their loans, which prompted a liquidity crisis at Porsche. Soon, Porsche became the subject of a reverse takeover from VW. Porsche SE agreed to retain its 50.76 percent stake in VW Group, and to have its Porsche AG carmaking unit merged into Volkswagen.

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