CalSTRS Suing Volkswagen

The public fund giant says VW’s purposeful deception in defeating air quality controls on millions of diesel vehicles polluted the environment and threatens the company’s long-term shareholder value.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) announced plans to participate in a German securities litigation suit against Volkswagen AG, citing the automaker’s admission that it deliberately installed software that misrepresented air quality and emissions information on millions of so-called “clean diesel” vehicles.

Since the September 2015 revelation of Volkswagen’s fraudulent activities, illegal and intentional wrongdoing to manipulate emissions testing, VW’s share price has dropped significantly. The litigation is currently in the planning process, with additional plaintiffs to be announced in the near future.

“Volkswagen’s actions are particularly heinous, since the company marketed itself as a forward thinking steward of the environment,” says CalSTRS Chief Executive Officer Jack Ehnes. “Its deceitful and hypocritical actions ultimately caused great harm to the atmosphere and the emissions cheating scandal has badly hurt the company’s value.”

Ehnes continued, “As an actively involved, long-term shareholder, CalSTRS places utmost importance on our fiduciary duty to our members to attempt to recover losses due to such wrongful conduct, while also communicating a clear message to VW, as well as the entire automotive industry, that we will not tolerate these illegal actions.”

According to a CalSTRS statement, German securities litigation is unlike United States securities class actions because shareholders in German companies are not entitled to a pro-rata share of recovery unless they affirmatively join a case, as CalSTRS is doing. A majority of CalSTRS shares in Volkswagen AG, valued at $52 million (353,988 shares as of December 31, 2015) in common and preferred stock, were purchased on foreign exchanges.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a spokesman for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) confirmed that fund is separately pursuing a similar action.