VW boss bears brunt of shareholders’ anger over scandal

Volkswagen chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch bore the brunt of investor dissatisfaction over the carmaker’s handling of the emissions cheating scandal during a raucous shareholder meeting, with some even trying to remove him as host of the gathering.

Poetsch received a tongue-lashing from investors for his shift last year from chief financial officer to the head of the supervisory board, which has oversight on top management.

Some investors twice asked to have Stephan Weil, the prime minister of Lower Saxony and a VW board member, take over the meeting. The motion was turned down.

“You are a conflict of interest personified,” said Markus Dufner of the German Association of Ethical Shareholders.

He and other shareholders expressed deep reservations over having Mr Poetsch oversee the clean-up of a scandal that began while he was chief financial officer. Many institutional investors encouraged owners not to ratify the actions of management and supervisory boards in what would essentially be a vote of no confidence.

Investors questioned when they would get full information on the crisis, bemoaned the job management has done reacting to it, and expressed doubt about Volkswagen’s ability to turn itself into an electric-car maker.

Mr Poetsch said VW was still recommending that owners approve the actions of the two boards, despite a new market manipulation investigation announced by German authorities on Monday. The vote has limited legal implications. Institutional investors hold non-voting preferred shares, while the voting stock is mainly in friendlier hands.

The supervisory board was split over the recommendation to approve management’s actions.

Public shareholders “have never fared worse compared to the other VW stakeholders,” said Ulrich Hocker of German shareholder association DSW. “I only have one description for this: Total failure.”

Bloomberg


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