VW Board Turns To Independent Auditor To Counter Charges
BERLIN (AP) _ Dogged by allegations of industrial espionage, Volkswagen’s directors have asked a German auditing firm to conduct an independent probe of the Lopez defection.
The automaker’s supervisory board, in agreement with VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, decided on the move in a meeting late Friday, according to company spokesman Hans Peter Blechinger.
″We have a high interest at Volkswagen in clarifying the situation,″ Blechinger said. The decision to hire KPMG Deutsche Treuhand-Gesellshaft of Frankfurt was made, he said, because VW believes it has done nothing wrong and wants to get on with the business of making automobiles.
Blechinger would not comment on the latest media reports on the case of Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua and seven associates who left General Motors Corp. for Volkswagen AG in the spring.
Der Spiegel magazine reports in its newest editions, due out Monday, that VW possesses about a thousand pages of confidential GM documents.
The magazine says about a dozen volunteers copied the documents and entered data and tables into computers at a Volkswagen office near Wolfsburg, Germany, at the end of March. ZDF television had a similar report last week.
GM contends that Lopez, with the help of his lieutenants, systematically compiled and made off with stacks of secret documents, from plans of future models to exhaustive lists of parts and suppliers.
German and U.S. prosecutors are investigating the matter, and Volkswagen admitted last week that it had in fact possessed what might have been sensitive GM documents. However, VW contends all such documents were destroyed.
VW’s supervisory board, in a special meeting on Aug. 6, expressed full confidence in Piech and Lopez, GM’s former head of worldwide purchasing.
Lopez was hired as VW’s second-in-command, company officials say, because Piech considered him most capable for the job of restructuring Europe’s biggest automaker, which lost nearly $1 billion in this year’s first half.
According to Der Spiegel, the director of VW’s supervisory board, Klaus Liesen, plans to establish a special office at VW headquarters on Tuesday to handle the Lopez affair, which has badly tarnished the company’s image.
The magazine says Liesen is considering seeking a replacement for Lopez. Blechinger, said he was not aware if Liesen was setting up such an office, adding that he knew nothing about a possible replacement of Lopez.