The court docket shortens the breach of belief proceedings towards Volkswagen managers significantly

The infidelity process against three former Volkswagen HR managers and one incumbent will be shortened considerably. After the last hearing of witnesses, the responsible judge at the Braunschweig Regional Court today gave preference to the briefs and a decision. A judgment is expected in the coming week in the proceedings for allegedly excessive remuneration of senior works councils at Volkswagen. Originally, the process was supposed to last until the end of October. (AZ: 16 KL 85/19)

The defendants, including the two ex-group HR directors Horst Neumann and Karlheinz Blessing, are accused of having paid influential works councils inappropriately lavishly between 2011 and 2016. The accusation is infidelity, sometimes in particularly serious cases. The largest European car manufacturer is said to have suffered damage of more than 5 million euros.

It’s about the remuneration of ex-Group works council chief Bernd Osterloh and four other powerful works councils at Volkswagen. As a witness in the proceedings, the long-time head of the employee representation had emphasized: “I was not involved in any salary determination that affects my person.” Separate aid proceedings are in progress against Osterloh himself; the allegations in the case of the four Volkswagen management executives are not directed against him.

The aim was to clarify whether unlawfully high remuneration was actually being collected and whether the HR managers had specifically initiated this. Even before the proceedings began, it was clear that this would be difficult to assess. Because the outdated Works Constitution Act leaves a lot of room for interpretation with regard to the permissible level of salary for works councils, also from the point of view of many lawyers.

According to the public prosecutor’s office, the executives “deliberately chose the criteria for determining the salary in such a way that an increase in salary was apparently justified, but this was not the right thing to do”. The question arises as to which comparative values ​​of the company are used to justify payments to employee representatives released for their voluntary work. The public prosecutor’s office is of the opinion that unsuitable comparison groups were deliberately chosen at Volkswagen.

The defense sees it very differently. It had become clear that Osterloh and other higher works councils – comparable management positions – had acquired a lot of experience and “considerable and strategic qualifications”. Therefore, the approved salaries are okay too. In good years, Osterloh earned up to 750,000 euros. In May of this year, he moved to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle Holding Traton as Chief Human Resources Officer.


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