• Civil cases stem from use of options during failed VW takeover
  • Appeals court will rule on lawsuits involving Porsche, VW

Lawsuits filed by hundreds of Porsche SE investors over the company’s use of complex financial instruments in 2008 before its failed takeover of Volkswagen AG will be combined under a special procedure to handle some large civil cases in Germany.

A court in Hanover ruled that it will send the cases to appellate judges in the northern city of Celle. If the appeals judges find Porsche liable, the individual cases will be transferred back to the trial courts to determine how much each investor can seek.

The ruling comes about a month after a Stuttgart criminal court acquitted former Porsche executives over the same issue, saying allegations that they manipulated the VW shares are "totally unfounded." Porsche is still facing a host of suits seeking a total of 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion), which are legally independent from the criminal case. Today’s ruling allows trial courts to submit related civil cases to the mass-case procedure, including claims by hedge funds that didn’t ask to combine the suits.

Andreas Tilp, a lawyer for the investors, said the ruling will boost the cases, making up for any setback from the acquittals of former Porsche Chief Executive Officer Wendelin Wiedeking and ex-Chief Financial Officer Holger Haerter.

Stuttgart-based Porsche said that judges have repeatedly backed the company over the issue and it “doesn’t really matter which court hears the cases.”

“The mass-case procedure enables the swift and final clarification of the allegations," Porsche spokesman Albrecht Bamler said in a statement. Volkswagen didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

Volkswagen will also be a party to the combined proceedings as one of the suits claims the automaker knew about the alleged market manipulation. While the Hanover court said 83 issues need to be resolved, it rejected 27 more questions the plaintiffs had sought to clarify.

Germany’s mass-case law, which is similar to a U.S. class action, was introduced more than a decade ago to cope with 16,000 investors suing Deutsche Telekom AG over a share sale. The law centralizes the evidence phase in capital-market cases in which a large number of investors claim to have been hurt by the same action.

Today’s ruling is: LG Hannover, 18 OH 2/16.

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