Nordea has become the first asset manager to say it is considering suing Volkswagen over its deceit regarding emissions, which has resulted in huge losses for investment managers globally.
Nordea Asset Management, the Nordic region’s largest asset manager with around €190bn of assets, said it was evaluating whether to join “several different class actions” against the German carmaker.
Lawyers have been circling Volkswagen since US regulators accused it of using “defeat devices” to cheat US emissions tests for its diesel cars in September.
“[The investors in our funds] should not bear the cost of VW fraud,” said Sasja Beslik, head of responsible investments at Nordea’s fund arm.
“Given how deep and rife this scandal is, we want to evaluate both European and US class actions in order to [find the best options for us],” he added.
VW’s share price has plunged almost 40 per cent since September, leaving investors with billions in losses.
Among those worst affected is Norway’s oil fund, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. It lost NKr4.9bn, or around €500m, from its stake in VW during the three months until the end of September. The fund is one of VW’s largest shareholders and had a 1.2 per cent stake in the company at the end of 2014.
Nordea, which banned its fund managers from making any further investments in the carmaker after details of the emissions problems emerged, had around half a million VW shares, worth more than €80m, in September. It has since offloaded 90 per cent of its shares.
Mr Beslik said: “Investors are evaluating how to protect their losses.”
APG, the Dutch pension fund that manages €400bn, is also considering suing VW. “We are reviewing our options and are not ruling out legal action,” said a spokesperson.
VW had not responded to a request for comment at the time of going to press.
It is understood several other institutional investors are weighing up taking legal action against the carmaker. Clive Zietman, head of commercial litigation at Stewarts Law, who has worked on lawsuits against banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland, which is being sued for allegedly misleading investors during the financial crisis, said asset managers had contacted him about VW.
Class actions against VW, which allow one person to sue on behalf of a group of individuals or companies, have already been filed in the US and Australia.
DSW, a German shareholder association, backed by European investor rights group Better Finance, said it is in “close and advanced” talks with private and institutional investors across Europe and the US about taking legal action in VW’s home market.
“Several national and international institutional investors expressed their interest to co-operate with us in this case,” said Marc Tüngler, general manager at DSW.
Bentham Europe, a litigation finance group backed by Elliott Management, the US hedge fund, and Australian-listed IMF Bentham, said last week it is in talks with VW’s top 200 investors and plans to launch a damages claim in Germany as soon as next February.
David Seidel, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Tort Recovery Association, which helps institutions decide which class actions to join, said law firms in the UK are also in the process of putting together cases against the carmaker. He warned that it will be years before lawsuits against VW reach the courts.
This article was amended after publication to reflect further comment from Nordea
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