German regulator launches another probe into VW over scandal

FILE PHOTO: Volkswagen's logos are pictured at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s financial watchdog said on Friday it was investigating whether Volkswagen illegally disclosed information about its emissions scandal to third parties, adding to the carmaker’s legal headaches more than two years after the scandal broke.

Europe’s largest automaker is already the subject of a probe by the BaFin watchdog over suspected insider trading related to its “Dieselgate” scandal, and an investigation by Braunschweig prosecutors over suspected market manipulation.

Earlier this week, a German court also ruled an independent auditor should be appointed to investigate Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE cheating of U.S. diesel engine tests, boosting investors' hopes for compensation.

On Friday, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Volkswagen’s (VW) CEO at the time, Martin Winterkorn, informed then-Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt and the head of Germany’s KBA motor vehicle watchdog on Sept. 21, 2015, about the extent of the carmaker’s cheating.

But VW did not make public until Sept. 22, 2015, that about 11 million cars worldwide were fitted with emissions-cheating software and that it would set aside billions of euros to cover the potential cost of the scandal.

“We are looking at this process with a view to a potentially unauthorized disclosure of inside information,” a spokesman for BaFin said, confirming the Der Spiegel report.

VW declined to comment on the latest BaFin investigation, but reiterated its view that its management board “duly fulfilled” its obligations regarding capital market disclosure rules.

The Transport Ministry couldn’t be reached for comment.

Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz; Editing by Mark Potter