VW’s Second-Biggest Owner Declines to Back Winterkorn and Diess

The German state of Lower Saxony, Volkswagen AG’s second-largest shareholder, refused to sign off on the actions last year of two of the carmaker’s board members in an unusual public split among the carmaker’s close-knit owners. At the first shareholder meeting since the emissions-cheating scandal erupted, Lower Saxony abstained from a vote to ratify the actions in 2015 of Martin Winterkorn, who was chief executive officer at the time, and current VW brand chief Herbert Diess. Lower Saxony representatives plan to speak on Thursday about their decision not to back the two. Both are under investigation by German prosecutors for possible market manipulation linked to the timing of the public notification of the scandal. “During the current proceedings the state of Lower Saxony doesn’t want to evoke the slightest impression that it positions itself in any way. That is solely the matter of prosecutors and potentially the courts later,” the German state said in an e-mailed statement. Lower Saxony will wait for investigations to be finalized and said “premature conclusions” should be avoided.
Though the vote is largely symbolic, Lower Saxony’s move puts it at odds with the Porsche and Piech families, which used their clout to ensure both men were backed by a majority of shareholder votes. Lower Saxony joined the controlling family in supporting the rest of the top executives and the supervisory boards.

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