Court Seeks More Evidence in Porsche Manipulation Trialby
Stuttgart tribunal delays defense's closing arguments
Judges want to schedule two additional hearings in March
Judges are seeking more evidence in the market manipulation trial of former Porsche SE executives Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Haerter in a surprise last-minute move that will delay the verdict that was scheduled to come as soon as next week.
Closing arguments by defense attorneys for Thursday were canceled and two new hearings will be scheduled after March 4, the Stuttgart Regional Court said in an e-mailed statement. The decision indicates the court may want to take a closer look at issues raised by prosecutors last week during their own closing arguments.
The two men have been on trial for market manipulation since October for allegedly lying about a plan to use options to acquire a controlling stake in Volkswagen AG. When Porsche first disclosed its strategy on Oct. 26, 2008, short sellers drove up the price of VW shares as they scrambled to cover their positions. Porsche later gave up the idea after funding dried up amid the financial crisis.
Prosecutors last week said they were seeking jail sentences of as long as 30 months for Wiedeking, the company’s former chief executive officer, and 27 months for Haerter, the former chief financial officer, and an 807 million-euro fine against Porsche.
Porsche spokesman Albrecht Bamler said the company won’t comment before the court explains the ruling at a hearing tomorrow. Jan Holzner, a spokesman for Stuttgart prosecutors, said the court apparently wanted to review the October 2008 press release issued by Porsche.
"We think the facts were already sufficiently explored by the evidence introduced during trial," he said.
Wiedeking, Haerter and Porsche have denied any wrongdoing.