FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and its former chief executive have asked a U.S. federal judge in California to dismiss lawsuits filed by American investors accusing the German automaker of deception involving its cheating on diesel emissions tests.
VW late on Monday filed court papers asking U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco to throw out a class action securities complaint led by the Arkansas State Highway Employees’ Retirement System and the Miami police pension fund, saying the matter should not be heard in a U.S. court.
Lawyers for former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned after the company admitted the cheating last year, and current VW brand chief Herbert Diess filed separate motions also asking the judge to dismiss the litigation.
“Volkswagen believes that the consolidated securities class action complaint is without merit. The plaintiffs do not satisfy the basic elements of a U.S. securities claim and, in any event, this action challenging Volkswagen’s investor disclosures, issued in Germany, does not belong in a U.S. court,” Volkswagen spokesman Pietro Zollino said.
Breyer is set to hold a hearing on the motions on Dec. 16.
VW last September admitted using sophisticated secret software in its cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests, with millions of vehicles worldwide affected. The “Dieselgate” scandal has harmed VW’s business and reputation and cost the world’s No. 2 automaker billions of dollars.
The U.S. investor lawsuits accuse Volkswagen of deception for failing to inform investors in a timely manner about cheating emissions tests in the United States by installing improper software that deactivated pollution controls. They contend the deception led to steep investment losses.
Winterkorn’s lawyers said any claims should be heard in Germany and that he had nothing to do with statements about diesel vehicles made by VW’s U.S. unit.
Winterkorn said in a declaration to the court that he has not been to the United States since the diesel emissions scandal became public last September, and last visited in July 2015 for previously undisclosed test drives in Florida.
VW has said that more than 450 plaintiffs, including more than 90 U.S. institutional investors, also have filed more than 130 lawsuits against VW in Germany, alleging untimely disclosures of the cheating and seeking billions of euros in damages.
German government authorities have ongoing investigations into whether VW violated disclosure obligations.
“Germany has a demonstrable interest in holding VW AG, a German corporation, accountable, if it is found to have violated Germany’s stringent public disclosure and anti-market manipulation regulations,” VW said in its U.S. court filing.
VW has agreed to spend up to $15.3 billion to offer to buy back 475,000 polluting U.S. diesel vehicles, offset excess emission, promote electric vehicles and resolve 44 state lawsuits.
Reporting by Edward Taylor in Frankfurt and David Shepardson in Michigan; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Will Dunham