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SCANDAL

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund hits out at VW leadership

As VW battles a global emissions-cheating scandal, the fund's chief executive, Yngve Slyngstad, slammed the carmaker's shareholder structure.

Norway's sovereign wealth fund hits out at VW leadership
"I don't think that anyone genuinely believes that the family wants to change anything about the structure," Slyngstad said. Photo: NTB/Scanpix

“This cannot be a role model for Germany,” Slyngstad told the Sunday newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The Porsche and Piech families own 50.73 percent of VW's voting shares via the holding company Porsche Automobil Holding SE, but they own only 31.5 per cent of the company equity.

“I don't think that anyone genuinely believes that the family wants to change anything about the structure,” Slyngstad told the newspaper.

“We as co-owners don't get the impression that the family wants to listen to us.”

Norway's €734 billion ($819 billion) fund holds a stake of 1.2 percent in Volkswagen.

It previously criticised the German group's shareholder structure in 2009 following the VW-Porsche takeover battle.

The embattled auto giant is currently embroiled in its deepest-ever crisis after it was forced to admit that it had fitted 11 million diesel cars worldwide with software which intentionally skews the results of emissions tests.

On Friday, the company took the unusual step of delaying the publication of its annual results and pushed back its annual shareholder meeting as it grapples with assessing the full financial fallout from the scandal.

Separately, the star lawyer VW has hired to handle compensation claims in the United States told another Sunday newspaper that it might take some time yet before a deal is hammered out for owners of the affected vehicles in the US.

“My hands are tied as long as VW and the authorities don't overcome their differences. The original timeframe could be delayed,” lawyer Kenneth Feinberg told Die Welt am Sonntag.

Feinberg is renowned as the go-to lawyer for high-profile legal cases.

He managed the compensation claims fund for General Motors related to the deadly ignition switches used in some of its cars.

Feinberg also managed similar funds for the victims of the September 11th, 2001, terror attacks and the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Feinberg, who originally suggested when he was hired in December that it could take between 60 and 90 days to draw up a claims resolution programme, said all options were still on the table with regard to what form the compensation could take.

“It has not yet been decided. All options are still up for debate: cash payments, car buy-backs, repairs, or the provision of replacement cars,” he said.

“It's immaterial to me what a company can afford. What is important for me is to find a solution that is generous enough to satisfy the affected customers,” Feinberg said.

“My task is not to punish VW,” he added.

ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel’s conservative party moves to clean up after ‘mask affair’

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are trying to end corruption allegations roiling their ranks over mask procurement, ordering MPs to declare all financial gains related to the pandemic days ahead of key regional elections.

Merkel's conservative party moves to clean up after 'mask affair'
Angela Merkel on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

A lawmaker from Merkel’s CDU party and another from its CSU Bavarian sister party have been accused of profiting directly or indirectly from mask contracts.

In a move to clean house, the conservative CDU-CSU alliance on Wednesday ordered all of its MPs to declare any financial benefits gained from the coronavirus pandemic by 6pm on Friday.

All members of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group will have to make “a declaration that no such benefits were obtained in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, says the letter addressed to the lawmakers, dated March 10th.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s face mask scandal

This declaration must take into account any financial benefits “from the purchase or sale of medical products such as protective equipment, testing and vaccination supplies, from the provision of contacts, from the forwarding of offers or enquiries, or from the provision of support or advice to third parties”, the letter seen by AFP says.

In the event that such a declaration cannot be made, MPs are urged to report directly to two senior party members.

CSU lawmaker Georg Nüsslein was last month placed under investigation for corruption following accusations that he accepted around €600,000 ($715,000) to lobby for a mask supplier.

A similar controversy has embroiled CDU lawmaker Nikolas Löbel, whose company pocketed 250,000 euros in commissions for acting as an intermediary in mask contracts.

Löbel has resigned from his MP post and Nüsslein has said he will leave after September’s elections, with the deals drawing scathing criticism across the political spectrum.

Amid the fallout from the scandal dubbed the “mask affair” by German media, the conservatives said they had “a responsibility to present and clarify such matters in a completely transparent manner”.

The scandal has led to a drop in the CDU’s popularity ratings just days ahead of two key regional elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

The state elections will be a litmus test ahead of Germany’s general election on September 26th – the first in over 15 years not to feature outgoing chancellor Merkel.

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