US SEC files suit against VW, Martin Winterkorn

Volkswagen headquarters

Volkswagen made false and misleading statements to investors and underwriters about vehicle quality, environmental compliance, and the company's financial standing, which gave Volkswagen a financial benefit when it issued securities at more attractive rates for the company, according to the SEC.

Volkswagen said in a statement the SEC complaint "is legally and factually flawed, and Volkswagen will contest it vigorously".

At issue: upwards of $13 billion in bonds and asset-backed securities issued here between April 2014 to May 2015-a period when, the SEC's lawsuit alleges, Volkswagen's upper echelons were well aware that its 500,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. were employing illegal software in order to fool emissions tests.

Martin Winterkorn, who resigned in 2015 as VW's chief executive when the scandal was revealed, is also named in the civil complaint, which was brought by the SEC late on Thursday.

VW has already paid out billions of dollars in fines to USA and German authorities in criminal and civil actions.

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"The SEC does not charge that any person involved in the bond issuance knew that Volkswagen diesel vehicles did not comply with US emissions rules when these securities were sold, but simply repeats unproven claims about Volkswagen's former CEO, who played no part in the sales", he added. No investors were harmed, VW said.

As well as Volkswagen and Winterkorn, the SEC's filing names Volkswagen Group of America Finance and VW Credit.

German markets regulator Bafin could not be reached for comment about whether it was working with the SEC.

Volkswagen has agreed to pay more than $25 billion in the USA in connection with the three-and-a-half-year old scandal, paying claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers, and has offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. That figure included $4.3 billion in US criminal and civil fines.

By using a piece of software that activated during tests, Volkswagen was able to make it appear as though its diesel vehicles were producing significantly fewer emissions than they actually were. It pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2017; 13 people have been charged in the United States, including Winterkorn. While Volkswagen raised money, the company was participating in a scheme to cheat on emissions tests. Two VW executives have been convicted in the scandal and are now serving sentences in US federal prisons.

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