A Merckle Group unit and two other companies were denied access to Stuttgart prosecutors’ files that might have helped their civil lawsuits against Porsche SE over the failed bid for Volkswagen AG.
The Stuttgart Higher Regional Court rebuffed an attempt to collect information from the investigation of former Porsche executives Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Haerter, according to a judgment published in a database of court rulings. The Merckle unit, HWO GmbH, can’t be considered a victim of the alleged crimes, the judges said.
“Investors damaged by market manipulation aren’t victims” under the rules governing access to the files, the judges wrote. Market manipulation rules “do not directly aim to protect the investors, but only the public interest in truth and trustworthiness of price building at stock exchanges.”
The ruling is a setback for plaintiffs in the German cases against Porsche, which are seeking more than 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) combined. German law grants only limited access to information from parties to lawsuits. Gaining access to findings by prosecutors in a criminal probe is a way to obtain additional evidence.
The Stuttgart Higher Regional Court spokesman Stefan Schueler said that the tribunal rejected bids by three companies, declining to identify them. The HWO ruling was in June, while the other two rulings were last week.
The civil suits are part of a series of cases Porsche has faced since it disclosed in October 2008 it controlled 74.1 percent of VW, partly through options, and was seeking to acquire 75 percent and eventually take it over. The announcement caused Volkswagen’s stock to surge as short sellers raced to buy shares borrowed in a bet that VW would fall.
HWO spokeswoman Vivien Kraft declined to comment today.
Wiedeking, Porsche’s former chief executive officer, and Haerter, the former chief financial officer, were charged in December with market manipulation. Both deny the allegations.
The cases are OLG Stuttgart, 1 Ws 112/13, 1 Ws 149/13 and 1 Ws 150/13.