BERLIN -- Volkswagen Group's compliance chief, Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, who has quit the company, was sidelined as the automaker negotiated with U.S. authorities to resolve its emissions scandal, sources told Reuters.
Instead of Hohmann-Dennhardt, it was VW Group's procurement chief Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz and VW lawyer Manfred Doess who had led the negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice that led to a $4.3 billion settlement earlier this month.
VW said in a statement Thursday that Hohmann-Dennhardt, 66, was leaving Volkswagen's board "due to differences in their understanding of responsibilities and future operating structures within the function she leads."
"Volkswagen will continue to press forward with changes to its way of thinking and working," it said on Thursday.
VW said the former judge, poached just over a year ago from rival Daimler and one of the few women on a top German company board, was leaving by mutual consent, without being more specific.
The carmaker hired Hohmann-Dennhardt, an outsider with a reputation for toughness and the first woman to join its board, for the new post of board member for integrity and legal affairs at the height of the diesel scandal amid promises to change its top-down, engineering-driven culture.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach Hohmann-Dennhardt for comment.
VW agreed to pay the largest ever U.S. criminal fine levied on an automaker to settle charges it conspired for nearly 10 years to cheat on diesel emission tests.
Hohmann-Dennhardt joined VW from Daimler on Jan. 1 last year and was tasked with helping to clean up VW's diesel-emissions scandal, which began in September 2015. Prior to joining Daimler, Hohmann-Dennhardt served on Germany's constitutional court for 11 years as a judge. In 2016, she was named one of Automotive News Europe's Leading Women in the auto industry.
When VW was seeking to hire Hohmann-Dennhardt, VW Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch asked his counterpart at Daimler, Manfred Bischoff, to agree to the early termination of her contract.
Shortly after Hohmann-Dennhardt agreed to join VW in October 2015, the carmaker hired Doess as its chief counsel, also with responsibility for compliance and for cleaning up legal consequences of the diesel scandal. In addition, Doess is a member of the management board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, VW’s majority owner, further complicating the executives’ ties in the corporate hierarchy.
Doess has steered Porsche through years of legal troubles caused by a failed attempt in 2008 to acquire Volkswagen, including gaining dismissal of U.S. actions, as well as the acquittal of the holding company and its former leaders in a related criminal trial.
In contrast to Hohmann-Dennhardt’s failed effort to bring in former FBI chief Louis Freeh to help Volkswagen in talks with U.S. authorities in the diesel case, Doess played a key role alongside Garcia Sanz, the carmaker’s top negotiator on the issue, in working out deals with the regulators.
Hohmann-Dennhard was a career judge and a state minister before being appointed to Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest tribunal. She served at the top court from 1999 until she joined Daimler in 2011, when the carmaker hired her after settling a corruption scandal in the U.S.
VW named insider Hiltrud Werner, head of group auditing, to take over Hohmann-Dennhardt's post. Werner is an economics graduate rather than a lawyer.
Bloomberg contributed to this report