Volkswagen wins trust award, despite bribes and hookers

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A cupcake decorated with the VW logo.

Trust is a cupcake of a deal for VW, particularly after top execs squandered money on bribes and prostitutes. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Clever Cupcakes/Flickr)

Automotive News reports that Volkswagen has been named the “most trustworthy” of all companies to appear in Germany’s DAX stock index. VW’s top marks on the Corporate Trust Index, which is data collected by the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Leipzig and media analysis company PMG Presse-Monitor. While the VW brand has performed well in the face of the global automotive industry crunch, Automotive News points out that an award based on how trustworthy VW is happens to be ironic. This is because three of the company’s top executives were convicted by a German court because of their involvement in a scandal that involved bribes and prostitutes.

In 2008, two major VW execs were sentenced

Klaus Volkert, the former head of Volkswagen’s works council, was sentenced to three years in prison for “breach of trust.” Apparently Volkert received a $3 million bonus from former personnel director Peter Hartz. German court documents state that the money was intended to buy Volkert’s favorable vote on various major supervisory board decisions, including a major company restructuring. Hartz pleaded guilty to making such payments to Volkert from 1995 to 2004; the former personnel director was slapped with a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of approximately $741,000.

Bring on the prostitutes

Next came former senior personnel executive Klaus-Joachim Gebauer. Gebauer, who was convicted on 40 counts of breach of trust, received a year of probation. Gebauer, on Hartz’s order, was responsible for organizing “Lustreise” trips for members of the VW works council. These parties provided the influential corporate voters with all the prostitutes they desired, according to reports.

So VW wants to be your trustworthy automaker

Are you sensing a disconnect? Perhaps Europe views this kind of thing differently. As one Automotive News reader named “Madlock” writes, “Europe – and Germany in particular – has historically embraced a far more pragmatic, and far less provincial, view of such matters… they also seem to be able to get over themselves enough to allow themselves to draw clear distinctions between bad actors and a bad enterprise.”

Perhaps this means that America has trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Imagine if such a scandal had occurred at Ford. Would American organizations be handing Ford an award?

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