German financial watchdog probing carmakers’ ‘cartel’

Germany's top carmakers could be fined 5% of their annual revenue if they are found to have been involved in a cartel. [Engin Sezer/Shutterstock]

Germany’s financial regulator confirmed on Monday (7 August) it is investigating whether Volkswagen and Daimler failed to notify investors properly following reports that they informed cartel authorities of secret talks with other carmakers that could amount to collusion.

Regulators “are examining whether VW and Daimler respected their duty to inform markets following their allegedly reporting themselves to the authorities”, a spokesman for the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) told AFP, confirming a report from German business daily Handelsblatt.

BaFin’s intervention follows confirmation from the European Commission that it has launched its own investigation into whether the discussions between German manufacturers were legal.

Refuting cartel tag, VW says automaker exchanges 'common'

German car giant Volkswagen, facing allegations that it colluded with fellow automakers on diesel emissions and other issues, insisted on Wednesday (27 July) that technical exchanges between manufacturers were “quite common”.

According to German media reports, VW and its subsidiaries Audi and Porsche colluded with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and BMW, agreeing technical, purchasing and marketing details and even levels of polluting emissions.

Deals on the last point allegedly led to the diesel emissions cheating scandal that has cost VW tens of billions in fines and compensation since 2015.

Companies listed on the stock market are obliged to inform investors promptly about any information that could affect their share price.

Neither VW nor Daimler have confirmed reports that they informed the competition authorities of the secret talks allegedly held since the 1990s.

For its part, BMW is not believed to have reported the discussions, and BaFin is therefore not investigating the Munich-based firm.

Dutch watchdog says Jeep, Suzuki may have violated emissions rules

Dutch prosecutors said on Monday (10 July) they will investigate possible misuse of vehicle emissions software by Suzuki and Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep.

The first firms to come forward and admit to anti-competitive behaviour usually escape EU fines.

Recent changes to German law mean BaFin can inflict beefed-up penalties on companies found to be infringing the rules on ad hoc notifications to investors.

A fine could reach as high as 5.0% of a firm’s annual revenue – a sum that could reach into the billions for a group of VW or Daimler’s size.

But the regulator’s spokesman said it was not yet clear whether any wrongdoing would be dealt with under the old or the new law.

Deutsche Bank recently paid a fine of €550,000 for failing to notify markets under the former system.

The Brief: Emissions collusion dampened EU spark

After the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal broke in late 2015, it quickly became apparent that the German giant was not the only car company with dirty secrets to hide.