Piech, Porsche Family on Witness List in Hedge-Fund Lawsuit

Volkswagen AG Chairman Ferdinand Piech and Porsche Automobil Holding SE chairman Wolfgang Porsche are among 21 people who will be asked to testify by a German court in a 1.8 billion-euro lawsuit suit filed by two American hedge funds.

Other members of the Porsche and Piech family are also scheduled to give evidence, according to a witness list obtained by Bloomberg News. The men all served on the Porsche supervisory board in 2008 when the company tried unsuccessfully to take over its then-rival VW.

The Hanover court is hearing a case filed by Elliot International LP and Perry Partners LP seeking 1.8 billion euros over the aborted deal. The hedge funds had asked the judges to call the witnesses, who include ex-Porsche Chief Executive Officer Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Haerter, the former chief financial officer.

Current Porsche CFO Hans Dieter Poetsch told reporters in Stuttgart Tuesday that the witnesses will disprove the market-manipulation allegations. The judges plan to hear the witnesses from May 5 to May 8, a court spokesman said.

Short Sellers

Porsche SE has faced a series of investigations and lawsuits since it disclosed in October 2008 that it controlled 74.1 percent of VW, partly through options, and was seeking to acquire 75 percent as part of a takeover strategy. The announcement caused VW’s stock to jump as short sellers raced to buy shares to repay stock borrowed in bets that VW would fall.

Porsche spokesman Albrecht Bamler declined to comment on the witness list. Eric Felber, a Volkswagen spokesman, declined to comment. Wiedeking’s lawyer, Walther Graf, said his client hasn’t been contacted by the Hanover court. Harter’s attorney Winfried Holtermüller didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail requesting comment.

Wiedeking and Haerter were charged in Stuttgart in 2012 with criminal market manipulation. Their trial is expected to open this year. Piech and his cousin Wolfgang Porsche are among the company’s 2008 supervisory board members who are being investigated by Stuttgart prosecutors. Suspects in criminal probes have the right to decline a call to testify on the issue under investigation.

Among the witness are also Porsche’s former communications head, Anton Hunger, and three partners at law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP who advised the company on the 2008 bid for Volkswagen.

Jan Bessling, a Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer spokesman, declined to comment. Hunger didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

Porsche SE -- which is controlled by the descendants of auto pioneer Ferdinand Porsche -- owns 50.7 percent of the common stock in Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen following the 2012 sale of the Porsche AG sports-car operations to VW in the wake of the unsuccessful takeover battle. Plans for a merger of Volkswagen and Porsche were dropped because of legal risks stemming from the cases brought by the investors.

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