The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Volkswagen Group and former CEO Martin Winterkorn with deceiving investors about the company's vehicle quality, compliance and finances before its emissions scandal erupted. The SEC charges, filed late Thursday, mark the latest in a cascading series of legal crises for VW following its admission that it rigged about 11 million vehicles worldwide with software to cheat emissions tests.
The Wall Street regulatory agency accused the German automaker of defrauding investors by selling bonds at inflated prices and lying to them about the state of the company. The accusations cover actions from April 2014 to May 2015. The scandal was first publicized in September 2015.
The SEC asked a federal judge in California to order VW and Winterkorn to pay penalties and force them to give back ill-gotten gains. It also asked the court to block Winterkorn from serving as an executive or board member of a publicly traded company.
That was already unlikely since Winterkorn is facing a separate criminal indictment in the U.S. Winterkorn, who has not returned to the U.S. since the indictment was issued, resigned from VW shortly after the scandal was revealed. He has maintained his innocence.
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A Volkswagen spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
The SEC complaint accuses VW of issuing more than $13 billion in bonds and securities in the U.S. during a period in which executives knew about the scandal but said nothing to the company's backers.
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