The first German lawsuit against Porsche Automobil Holding SE claiming losses related to the sale of Volkswagen AG stock options in 2008, has been filed, a district court in Stuttgart said on Monday.
Lawsuits are a major concern for Porsche's planned merger with Volkswagen, scheduled for this year, since U.S. hedge funds sued the company for billions, putting the deal at risk.
In the new lawsuit filed by Berlin-based law firm FPS, the plaintiff wants its 3.1 million euros ($4.0 million) loss compensated by Porsche and the German unit of Canadian lender Maple Bank, according to a court spokesman.
The plaintiff is claiming damages incurred on options bets after he relied on Porsche's public statements that it didn't intend to take over Volkswagen, his lawyer Christoph von Arnim said in a statement on law firm FPS Rechtsanwaelte & Notare's website today.
“By denying its intention, Porsche manipulated the price of VW shares to its own advantage” hurting “market participants who relied on the adequacy of the information,” von Arnim said. “This crosses the line to intentionally and illicitly causing harm to others.” He declined to identify his client.
Some investors alleged they were victimized when Porsche's banks covertly amassed a stake of VW voting shares as collateral against cash-settled options as part of the so-called "stealth takeover" of Europe's largest automaker. Porsche said on Oct. 26, 2008, that it controlled most of Volkswagen's common stock, causing the shares to surge as short sellers raced to cover their positions.
A massive short squeeze in late 2008 sent the stock up to 1,000 euros and very briefly made Volkswagen the most valuable company in the world by market capitalization.
"We still think that we abided by the law when trying to take over Volkswagen," a Porsche spokesman said, adding the carmaker had not yet received the complaint.
Maple Bank spokeswoman Barbara Fuchs said the lender didn't violate any rules.
In December Porsche won dismissal of a $2 billion suit by hedge funds over the issue in a Manhattan court, which said the case couldn't be heard in the U.S. because it was based on laws that only apply to companies listed there.
The German suit was filed in the Regional Court of Stuttgart. It hasn't yet been served, as court fees still have to be paid, court spokesman Bernhard Schabel said.
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this story