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By Yin Wilczek
Volkswagen AG’s emissions scandal is a “singular” case in German industry, said Christian Strenger, academic director of the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management’s Corporate Governance Center.
The German automaker is facing investigations and lawsuits around the world after admitting in September 2015 that it rigged 11 million diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.
The Volkswagen case is unfortunate, Strenger said, adding that German companies generally have a “good attitude towards corporate governance these days.” Strenger also is a supervisory board member of DWS Investment GmbH, a Deutsche Bank AG subsidiary, and a founding member of the German government’s Commission on Corporate Governance.
The German Corporate Governance Code sets out requirements for managing and overseeing German public companies based on internationally recognized governance standards. The Leipzig Graduate School of Management annually assesses the corporate governance of the large publicly listed companies in Germany, and, Strenger said, there is a 95 to 97 percent “acceptance of the German Code” at these companies.
In 2016, Strenger filed a shareholder lawsuit against VW challenging the continuing lack of independence of the supervisory board when four shareholder representatives (including the chairman) were elected at the company’s annual general meeting last year. No decision has yet been reached in the case.
He spoke to Bloomberg BNA on the sidelines of an April 25 University of Delaware/Association of Corporate Counsel conference on the Volkswagen AG emissions-rigging scandal. The conference was sponsored by Bloomberg Law.
VW has paid over 22.6 billion euros ($25.1 billion) so far over the emissions scandal, largely to resolve fines and lawsuits in the U.S.
Prosecutors in the U.S. and Europe also are investigating other automakers, including Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Daimler AG, Renault SA and PSA Group, over possible emissions manipulation in their diesel cars.
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