|The Volkswagen Investors Claim Foundation ('Stichting') was established under Dutch law at the end of 2015 to provide a tool for investors in the Volkswagen Group who had suffered damage from the company’s long-standing diesel fraud, helping them to recover at least part of their losses.
In order to manage the delicate situation of investors with an interest – in the case of shareholders a proprietary interest – in the long-term prosperity of the company, who have been harmed by the actions of that same company’s board and management, the Foundation has always opted for a negotiated settlement solution as a means of balancing these conflicting interests. The settlement model of Dutch law offered itself as the ideal instrument in Europe to achieve a balanced outcome through negotiation, while at the same time avoiding costly and lengthy litigation.
The World Federation of Investors and BETTER FINANCE, the two leading investor protection associations, have consistently supported this approach, and have reconfirmed their commitment on the occasion of their joint International Conference in Beirut in June.
Regrettably, Volkswagen has so far categorically refused to enter into settlement talks with the Foundation on investor claims in Europe – and has adopted the same stance with other legitimate claims generated in Europe, including the value loss of vehicles equipped with the unlawful emission control devices. This despite having accepted responsibility for these same matters in the United States, and despite having already agreed settlements there to the tune of $30 billion.
The Foundation has repeatedly castigated Volkswagen’s policy towards European claimants as inequitable, unjust and a grave failure of moral responsibility. The policy of denial has prolonged the opprobrium of fraud and moral failure so manifest in the history of the Diesel fraud.
Volkswagen’s board of directors has manifestly been playing for time, relying on the short prescription times which exist in Germany and other European countries and hoping that the claims would thus become ineffective. In the meantime, however, certain legal decisions have increased the pressure on VW. The prosecutor of Braunschweig has forced the company to pay penalties of €1bn on the grounds of unlawful enrichment by collective fraudulent behavior. VW has accepted the fine and, by doing so, has admitted its responsibility. In October of 2018, the higher court of Stuttgart ruled that Porsche must compensate investor claimants for the reduction in market value of their holdings because of the company’s violation of information obligation under the German Capital Market law. This sentence is not yet final, but highly indicative. It heightens the probability that investor lawsuits will be successful in the courts. In addition, a number of VW executives are currently under criminal charges for prior knowledge and fraud.
The strategic situation of the Foundation and its clients has markedly improved in recent months. It has become clear that the company’s policy of denial and prevarication has not had the expected deterrent effect.
Facing the imminent prospect of losing their claims through prescription on 31 December 2018, the registered clients of the Foundation have commenced legal proceedings. Backed by DSW, Germany’s biggest investor representation, the law firm Nieding & Barth, Hausfeld, and the international litigation funder Fortress and Financial Right, more than 1,000 individual claimants and 150 institutional investors have joined this action. These represent estimated claims of more than €1.2bn which are thus shielded from prescription. The new funder has enabled investors to sign on without charge, against a percentage deduction from the eventual settlement. Considerable initial funding had already been provided by the New York law firm Labaton Sucharow.
The lawsuits sponsored by the Foundation are only one part of the financial threat to VW. More than 1,500 other shareholders have registered a form of collective lawsuit in the two German “KapMuG” proceedings. There are also the claims of European bondholders and of European car owners. The figures also do not take account of the possible legal and financial consequences of executive fraud, if proven.
The VW Group, in its Annual Financial Report for 2018, states that the financial risk (Eventualverbindlichkeiten) from pending judicial procedures concerning customers, dealers, employees and investors amounts to €5.4bn, out of which €3.4bn are investor claims; this is reflected in the special reserve the company has set aside. External sources have however estimated that the total financial risk to VW, if all these procedures come to fruition over the years, is substantially higher and may affect the long-term financial stability of the group.
Given the current judicial situation, the VW management must now proceed on the assumption that it is threatened by billions of potential additional expenses, years of judicial and lawyers’ expenses, judgments, and fines.
In the Foundation’s view, supported by WFI and BETTER FINANCE, this situation offers an even stronger argument that initiation of forward-looking settlement negotiation is timely and beneficial for all parties.
“It is now more than ever clear that it is in the best interest of both parties to negotiate a fair settlement for the European VW investors harmed by DieselGate,” said Henning Wegener, chairman of the foundation.
7th EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Business Platform focused on transition to low-carbon and green technologies
The EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Platform of dialogue on economic and business matters (Business Platform) held its 7th meeting in Nur-Sultan on 11 June, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin.
The event brought together representatives of business and EU Heads of Mission led by the Ambassador of the EU to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sven-Olov Carlsson. Visiting EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Peter Burian joined the event.
The High-level Business Platform complements the technical dialogue between the EU and Kazakhstan within the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in particular the Cooperation Committee in Trade Configuration, which took place in October 2020.
The EU has committed to climate neutrality by 2050 and is fully translating the implementation of the Paris Agreement into legislation. Ambitious targets and decisive actions demonstrate that EU is and will remain to be a global leader in the transition to green economy. The climate challenge is inherently global, the EU is only responsibly for approximately 10% of all global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The EU expects from its partners to share a comparable level of ambition to fight climate change and is ready to deepen co-operation with Kazakhstan in this area, including exploring new opportunities for trade and investment.
The recent EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council welcomed the progress made in the framework of the Business Platform chaired by the Prime Minister Mamin. The Platform acknowledges the importance of the EU in Kazakhstan's external trade, and discussions on a range of issues contribute to attract more investment in Kazakhstan.
The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), fully in force from 1 March 2020, aims at creating a better regulatory environment for businesses in areas such as trade in services, establishment and operation of companies, capital movements, raw materials and energy, intellectual property rights. It is a tool of regulatory convergence between Kazakhstan and the EU, with some “WTO plus” provisions, notably on public procurement. Even in a year as difficult as 2020, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s first trade partner and first foreign investor, and Kazakhstan remains the main trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. Total EU-Kazakhstan trade reached €18.6 billion in 2020, with EU imports worth €12.6bn and EU exports €5.9bn. The EU is by far Kazakhstan's first trading partner overall, representing 41% of total Kazakh exports.
Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime
Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.
The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.
In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.
According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”
Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.
Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row
Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.
EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more
"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.
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