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(Reuters) — Bentham Europe, a litigation funder, said on Thursday it was in contact with Volkswagen A.G.'s top 200 investors about launching a damages claim in Germany as soon as next February for alleged negligence and breaches of German securities law.
Bentham Europe, a joint venture between Australian-listed IMF Bentham and U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management Corp, plans to manage and fund a German claim on a "no win, no fee" basis, alleging in part that VW failed to publish market sensitive information in a timely way.
A spokesman for the German carmaker declined to comment.
VW's shares have plunged by more than a third over the last six weeks after the company admitted that its software cheated U.S. emissions tests and that it also understated CO2 emissions and fuel usage.
Around €25 billion ($27 billion) has been wiped from the carmaker's market value since Sept. 18 in a deepening crisis that has sparked political, regulatory and public outrage. .
VW is facing a handful of investor lawsuits. U.S. law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd L.L.P. has filed a securities class action in Virginia against VW's U.S. divisions on behalf of American Depositary Receipts holders and Dutch investor association VEB plans a claim on behalf of investors who bought VW stock through a Dutch bank or broker.
In Germany, lawyer Andreas Tilp has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of retail investors.
Bentham Europe has instructed litigator Quinn Emanuel to lead the case through Germany's Braunschweig District Court. Quinn Emmanuel's Hamburg-based managing partner Nadine Herrmann says Volkswagen shareholders suffered "substantial damages as a result of VW's egregious misconduct".
Bentham, which expects the lawsuit to cost up to €10 million ($10.1 million) to run and take two or more years to resolve, is urging shareholders who bought VW ordinary or preference shares on any German stock exchange between Jan. 1, 2009, and Sept. 18, 2015, inclusive to sign up to the case.
If proceedings are successful, Bentham will get back costs as well as 15% to 30% of the value of the claim, it said.
Norway-based ship owner I.M. Skaugen SE has said that it is demanding compensation worth $50 million from MAN Diesel and Turbo SE, a marine unit of Volkswagen A.G., with respect to rigging performance tests of ship engines manufactured more than a decade ago, Reuters reported.