Anexo Group plc, the specialist integrated credit hire and legal services provider, have highlighted the preliminary judgment announced on 6 April 2020 in the High Court of Justice regarding the class action against Volkswagen AG (‘VW’) and its subsidiaries (the ‘VW Emissions case’).
Mr Justice Waksman ruled that VW subverted key air pollution tests by using special software to reduce emissions of nitrous oxides under test conditions. The High Court ruling applies not only to VW cars but also to those manufactured by Audi, SEAT and Skoda.
A specialist team within Anexo Group’s legal services division, Bond Turner, is acting on behalf of a number of individuals who have registered their intention to pursue a claim against VW. A number of these clients have been acquired through their status as past customers of the Group and others have contacted Bond Turner following a marketing campaign which was predominantly conducted through social media channels. The total number of claims currently being handled by Bond Turner stands at circa 8000 and this number is expected to grow following publicity around the ruling by the High Court.
VW has previously been involved in and settled a number of legal actions concerning emissions in various jurisdictions globally and the quantum of damages awarded has varied widely. In the US, individual settlements included a number of options and the compensation packages were set at various levels depending on the age and model of vehicle involved, with the sums ranging from US$5,100 (£4,150) to over US$40,000 (£32,520). In Germany, there was a similar range of options depending on the age and model of the vehicle involved, and the sums ranged from €1,350 to €6,257 (£1,190 to £5,540) plus a payment of €190 (£170) towards legal costs. In Australia, the settlement sums varied from AU$1,589 to AU$6,554 (£800 to £3,290).
The current litigation in the High Court is ongoing and therefore the outcome cannot be guaranteed at present. Following the preliminary judgement, legal advisers to VW have announced that they may consider an appeal. In the event of a settlement being agreed, Bond Turner would be entitled to claim a percentage of any damages awarded to each of its clients, as well as legal costs. Given the wide range of previous settlement levels, the Board considers that it would be inappropriate to give any guidance on the potential value of individual claims.
Anexo report that staff costs relating to the VW Emissions case have been expensed as normal through Bond Turner’s P&L and are included in the Group’s past guidance to the market. The case has been assigned to a specific advocacy team and no staff have been diverted from the normal claims actions which make up the majority of Bond Turner’s caseload. The Group has not currently included any potential revenue from the VW Emissions case in its forecasts. In order to minimise the impact on the Group’s overall cash resources, the Group is in advanced discussions with a potential lender to fund, at an agreed rate, the associated working capital for these cases.
The Board believes that, in the event of a settlement, the percentage of potential damages and associated costs accruing to Anexo would have a significant positive impact on the Group’s expectations for profits and cash flow for the relevant accounting period although they warn that there is no certainty that a settlement in favour of Bond Turner’s clients will be reached, nor is there any guarantee that such a settlement would include financial compensation.