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Herbert Diess: Legal trouble after appearance at Markus Lanz

Herbert Diess at Markus Lanz
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M arkus Lanz is persistent, as is so often the case: 'What do you call what happened there?' asked the moderator in the episode of the talk show named after him on June 18, 2019, to his guest Herbert Diess. The answer of the CEO of the Volkswagen Group: “What we did was fraud, yes.” You don't normally hear such clear words from high-ranking VW representatives when it comes to the carmaker's emissions manipulation. Otherwise, the 'diesel issue' or 'switchover logic' is used in this context. Now, clearly audible, the word “fraud” was used - and that is exactly what Volkswagen could now cause legal trouble.

A judge from Oldenburg picks up

As the “Handelsblatt” reports, took a judge of the Oldenburg Regional Court, before whom some VW customers are suing VW because of Dieselgate, Diess' statement on the occasion to dig deeper into the matter. He wrote a resolution and quotes Hans-Dieter Pötsch, the chairman of the VW Group's supervisory board. He had stated in May 2017 that the Jones Day law firm entrusted by Volkswagen with the processing was finished with its investigations, but that there would be no final report. This is 'unjustifiably risky' for VW. The company's official stance therefore continues to apply that a few employees who are not at the top of the hierarchy are responsible for the scandal and (ex) board members neither knew about it nor approved their actions.

For the Oldenburger Richter doesn't fit all of that together. From his point of view, VW must explain “who exactly in the company committed the fraud from Mr. Diess's point of view”, according to the “Handelsblatt”. The employees should therefore be named by name. And it should be clarified whether such public statements, which can be interpreted as confessions, could lead to complaining VW customers being helped to their right to financial compensation.

No statement in the 'legal technical sense'

VW downplays the statement made by the CEO. Diess' words are not to be understood in the 'legal technical sense', they do not change anything in the legal position. The automaker continues to take the position that it has only installed a banned “defeat device” in its diesel cars in the USA. In Germany and the EU, however, they acted legally. The customers suffered neither loss nor damage, the cars are safe and ready to drive.


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