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SEC says Volkswagen perpetrated fraud, lied to investors

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The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a court filing that Volkswagen had “perpetrated a massive fraud” and repeatedly lied to U.S. investors who bought bonds and other securities.

The regulator is suing Volkswagen and its former chief executive Martin Winterkorn over the German automaker’s diesel emissions scandal. The suit seeks to bar Winterkorn from serving as an officer or director of a public U.S. company and recover “ill-gotten gains.” Winterkorn was charged by U.S. prosecutors in 2018 and accused of conspiring to cover up the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating.

Volkswagen said the SEC complaint “is legally and factually flawed.”

VW had said in its annual report that the SEC could take enforcement action against the company over the German automaker’s involvement in the “dieselgate” emissions scandal.

The automaker said the agency is “piling on” and that the agency’s complaint is without merit.

The SEC has asked Volkswagen for information on potential securities law violations over certain investments the company may have sold to investors. The agency is looking for evidence determining whether the automaker failed to disclose information about vehicles that didn’t comply with U.S. emission standards when it issued certain securities to investors.

The SEC can issue fines and other civil penalties for violations of securities law.

One of the world’s largest carmakers, Volkswagen was rocked by reports first surfacing in 2015 that it had been caught cheating on emissions tests in the United States. The subsequent scandal cost Volkswagen billions of dollars to settle and forced the automakers to recall millions of vehicles.

Here is Volkswagen’s full statement to CNBC:

The SEC’s complaint is legally and factually flawed, and Volkswagen will contest it vigorously. The SEC has brought an unprecedented complaint over securities sold only to sophisticated investors who were not harmed and received all payments of interest and principal in full and on time. The SEC does not charge that any person involved in the bond issuance knew that Volkswagen diesel vehicles did not comply with U.S. emissions rules when these securities were sold, but simply repeats unproven claims about Volkswagen AG’s former CEO, who played no part in the sales. Regrettably, more than two years after Volkswagen entered into landmark, multibillion-dollar settlements in the United States with the Department of Justice, almost every state and nearly 600,000 consumers, the SEC is now piling on to try to extract more from the company.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

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European pilots urge EU regulator to thoroughly review Boeing 737 Max

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A Boeing 737 MAX 8 is pictured outside the factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

A European pilots’ group Thursday urged the region’s aviation regulator to conduct its own thorough and independent review of the Boeing 737 Max before allowing the planes to fly again.

International air safety regulators, including the Federal Aviation Administration, grounded the close to 400 Max jets that were in service in mid-March after two fatal crashes within less than five months of one another killed a combined 346 people.

“Simply accepting the FAA’s word on the Max’s safety won’t be enough,” the European Cockpit Association said in a statement. The group represents 38,000 European pilots, including those at airlines that have purchased the Boeing 737 Max, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair.

The group’s comments come as the FAA meets with their international counterparts in Texas on Thursday to provide an update on its approval process of Boeing’s changes to the planes in an effort to get them flying again.

Operators of the Boeing 737 Max are grappling with how to reintroduce the plane in their fleets if the FAA and other authorities approve its return. The absence of the plane has forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights during the busy summer travel season. Confidence from pilots and flight attendants are key to that strategy and Boeing has met with both groups in recent weeks to discuss the changes its preparing.

“If there’s an American Airlines pilot ready to go, so am I, so is my family. And we’ll be among the first people, if not the first people, on board,” American Airlines‘ CEO Doug Parker told NBC News in an interview that aired Wednesday evening.

Boeing last week said it completed software changes to an anti-stall system that has been implicated in the October crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max and another operated by Ethiopian Airlines in March. That software along with updated pilot training materials will need FAA’s approval.

The manufacturer and the FAA are under fire for how the plane was approved, which included delegating some functions to Boeing. Although the practice is legal, lawmakers have questioned the agency’s relationship with Boeing and several investigations are examining how the planes received a green light with a system that pilots say they didn’t know about until after the first crash.

The pilots group also wants answers.

“For European pilots, having closely followed the developments and revelations in the past months, it is deeply disturbing that both the FAA and Boeing are considering a return to service, but failing to discuss the many challenging questions prompted by the Max design philosophy,” it said.

For its part, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it plans to conduct an independent review of the plane.

“The information made available so far through the preliminary investigations of the two accidents are deemed to provide sufficient understanding of the safety issues to be addressed and we will continue to analyse any new information that the investigations make available,” EASA said in an e-mailed statement.

Separately on Thursday, an international airline trade group is meeting with 737 Max operators to discuss Boeing’s update and the potential return to service.

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Sterling slumps as Theresa May’s time as UK leader edges to a close

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Prime Minister Theresa May leaving 10 Downing Street, London, ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Victoria Jones – PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images

The pound continued to hover around 4-month lows Thursday after Prime Minister Theresa May suffered another cabinet resignation and faced intensifying calls by some members of her party to step down.

Sterling versus the U.S. dollar has moved toward the $1.25 handle, falling to a low of $1.2603 just as European trading began on Thursday.

Around the same time the euro bought 88.385 pence. The pound is currently on track to suffer 14 consecutive days of losses against the euro zone’s common currency.

A fourth attempt by May to secure domestic support for her Brexit withdrawal plan looks doomed to fail and calls for her to step down have amplified.

Adding to May’s troubles was the resignation of House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom on Wednesday evening. Leadsom is the 36th minister to resign in the almost three years of the May premiership.

“Investors should not be complacent about the threat of a no-deal exit, which we believe would take the pound as low as $1.15 and 0.97 versus the euro,” UBS analysts said in a note Thursday.

May is expected to depart in the next few days and her Conservative Party will narrow down candidates to two people before conducting a run-off vote.

A number of Conservative lawmakers are thought to be in the race to be the next U.K. leader, but bookmakers put the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as favorite. Johnson confirmed his candidacy last week.

Johnson, a supporter of Brexit, has been hugely critical of May’s attempts to agree a deal and has said that Britain has “nothing to fear” from leaving the trading bloc.

The investment bank J.P. Morgan said in a note Tuesday that a leadership victory for Johnson would likely trigger a number of defections from within the Conservative Party, strengthening the case for a general election.

Now watch: Where did Brexit come from?

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US tariffs on China have been paid almost entirely by US importers: IMF

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Vehicles wait for shipment at Lianyungang Port in Lianyungang, China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are hurting an unintended target as the trade war rages, an International Monetary Fund study found.

The study, released Thursday, said that tariff revenue collected from levies on Chinese goods “has been borne almost entirely” by U.S. importers.

China and the U.S. have been engaged in a trade war for more than a year. In that time, they have targeted billions of dollars worth of goods with high import tariffs. However, “there was almost no change in the (ex-tariff) border prices of imports from China, and a sharp jump in the post-tariff import prices matching the magnitude of the tariff,” the study said.

President Donald Trump claimed on May 8 that the higher levies on Chinese goods are “filling U.S. coffers ” to the tune of $100 billion per year. But the IMF said the bilateral trade deficit between China and the U.S. remains “broadly unchanged” even with the tariffs.

Trump has also raised the possibility of raising tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods. This, according to the IMF, could hurt consumers as companies are likely to pass on the additional cost.

“Consumers in the US and China are unequivocally the losers from trade tensions,” the IMF report said, adding higher tariffs could also hurt economic growth. “While the impact on global growth is relatively modest at this time, the latest escalation could significantly dent business and financial market sentiment, disrupt global supply chains, and jeopardize the projected recovery in global growth in 2019.”

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