According to an investigation launched by Volkswagen, six men from the company’s various boards breached their “duty of care” regarding the company’s long-running diesel engine emissions cheating scheme.
The investigation commissioned by Volkswagen was conducted by law firm Gleiss Lutz, and looked into the activities of board members during the period the company was using code to cheat its way past emissions testing.
After looking through around 1.6 million relevant files, conducting 1550 interviews, and considering evidence dug up by authorities around the world, the investigators concluded Martin Winterkorn, the group’s CEO, and Rupert Stadler, the head of Audi were the only group board members who breached “the duty of care under stock corporation law”.
Gleiss Lutz said from mid-2015 Winterkorn was guilty of failing “to comprehensively and promptly clarify the circumstances behind the use of unlawful software functions in 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines sold in the North American market between 2009 and 2015”, as well as failing to “ensure that the questions asked by the US authorities in this context were answered truthfully, completely and without delay”.
Stadler, meanwhile, failed “to ensure that 3.0-litre and 4.2-litre TDI diesel engines developed by Audi and installed in EU vehicles of Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche were investigated with regard to unlawful software functions”.
The investigation also found that former Audi board members Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch, as well as Wolfgang Hatz from Porsche and Heinz-Jakob Neusser of Volkswagen passenger cars, were guilty of “negligent breaches of duty”.
Volkswagen is currently assessing whether it should seek damages from Hackenberg, Knirsch and Hatz. It has already initiated proceedings against Neusser.
Both Winterkorn and Stadler are currently being prosecuted by German authorities.
Winterkorn was the CEO the Volkswagen Group from 2007 until 2015 when he resigned after the Dieselgate scandal was revealed. He is widely credited with pushing through the development of the MQB and MLB architectures, which underpin most of the automaker’s vehicles.
Stadler was named Audi’s CEO in 2010, and was arrested in 2018 as German authorities believed he was trying to suppress evidence related to its Dieselgate investigations. Volkswagen cut its ties with Stadler later in the year.