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Hermes EOS views on Volkswagon

Home / News Article / Hermes EOS views on Volkswagon

28 September 2015

Dr Hans-Christoph Hirt, Director at Hermes EOS:

"We are very concerned about the findings of the US Environmental Protection Agency, published on 18 September 2015, which suggest that Volkswagen systematically cheated in emissions tests of some 500,000 vehicles with diesel engines it sold in the US.

“The fact that Volkswagen has now conceded that there may be some 11 million cars worldwide fitted with so-called “defeat device” software, which detects whether the vehicle is subject to an emissions test, suggests that something has gone terribly wrong at the company.

"We welcomed the resignation of Volkswagen's CEO, Martin Winterkorn, on 23 September 2015 and the departure of other key executives as a first step in dealing with the fallout of the emissions scandal.

“Volkswagen now needs strong leadership at the management and supervisory board level which requires intimate knowledge of the group. As such, the appointment of Matthias Müller, the current CEO of Porsche, who has worked for the Volkswagen group for decades, as the new CEO, and the nomination of the current CFO, Hans-Dieter Pötsch, as chair-elect on 25 September 2015, seems to have been without alternatives.

“However, the supervisory board’s choice of corporate insiders as CEO and chair-elect also raises some real doubts whether the key shareholders have recognised the need for fundamental reform and a real new beginning.

“Moreover, under German corporate law, the management board of Volkswagen comprising Matthias Müller (since March 2015) and Hans-Dieter Pötsch (since 2003) is jointly responsible for the company’s management.

“The new CEO and the incoming chair should overhaul Volkswagen’s corporate governance, including the composition and effectiveness of its supervisory board, and create a corporate culture which ensures that the trust of customers and society will never again be jeopardised in the way it has in the past.

“Following intensive engagement with Volkswagen on corporate governance issues between 2006 and 2009, including speeches at the Annual General Meetings in 2006 and 2007, we have repeatedly raised concerns about aspects of Volkswagen’s corporate governance.

“We plan to attend the Extraordinary General Meeting of Volkswagen on 9 November 2015 and on behalf of a group of investors will explain our concerns and suggest changes to the company’s corporate governance and culture to other shareholders and the management and supervisory boards.

“In the meantime, we are in contact with Volkswagen and other car manufacturers and are intensifying our engagements in the light of the emissions scandal.”

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