German prosecutors have opened an investigation into Volkswagen AG former CEO Martin Winterkorn and another unnamed person on suspicion of market manipulation in the company’s emissions-rigging scandal.
Martin Winterkorn resigned in September 2016, several days after the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States publicly accused the company of manipulating results of emissions tests. Court documents filed by Volkswagen indicate that Martin Winterkorn was informed about emissions problems in the United States more than a year earlier.
The prosecutors’ office in the city of Braunschweig, which is leading other investigations involving Volkswagen, announced on Monday there were indications that the company could have warned of potential financial losses connected with the scandal earlier than it did.
Volkswagen first issued a disclosure on the matter on Sept. 22, 2015. That was four days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen, alleging that the auto maker had equipped thousands of diesel vehicles with software that circumvented EPA emissions standards.
The unnamed person served on the management board at the time of the scandal, according to the prosecutor’s office announcement. It didn't specifically indicate whether the individual had left the company.
Prosecutors in Braunschweig, the district with jurisdiction over Wolfsburg, where Volkswagen is based, previously said they were investigating around 17 people in connection with the scandal. Under German law, corporations as a rule cannot be held liable for criminal actions. Instead, prosecutors focus on individual responsibility.
The investigation comes at an inappropriate time for Volkswagen which will hold its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday. The investigation of Martin Winterkorn will boost investors who have filed lawsuits accusing Volkswagen of violating disclosure laws.