Monday, January 23, 2006

Volkswagen Establishes New Structures to Combat Corruption

Text from Volkswagen AG.
Volkswagen Group ombudsman system introduced today

WOLFSBURG, Germany - Volkswagen AG today launches its Group ombudsman system structured along international lines.

Information on corruption is given to two lawyers in the strictest confidence and the lawyers forward the material to the company. A team of experts from Group Internal Auditing, the Legal Department and Group Security will investigate every lead and take immediate action where appropriate. In a letter to employees today, Dr. Bernd Pischetsrieder, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, stressed that “the Volkswagen Group champions the cause of an open and transparent corporate culture. The ombudsman system marks an important step forward.”

At the end of 2005, Pischetsrieder announced the introduction of an ombudsman system as a main consequence of the so-called VW affair. In today’s letter addressed to all Group employees worldwide, he writes: “Corruption is not a trivial offence. With both corruption and bribery, the self-seeking behavior of very few individuals harms many innocent people. That is why corruption of any form whatsoever must be rigorously and comprehensively exposed.” He reported that Volkswagen AG had won the support of two highly-respected lawyers to act as ombudsmen.

Both ombudsmen will operate independent of the company. Dr. Rainer Buchert held various senior posts at the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) between 1977 and 1991. He was head of the criminal investigation department of the state of Saxony-Anhalt in 1992/93 and subsequently spent six years as the police commissioner for Offenbach. He has been a self-employed lawyer since 1999, specializing inter alia in white-collar crime and anti-corruption. For the last five years he has been an ombudsman for Deutsche Bahn and his work in this field is highly regarded throughout Germany. According to Buchert: “Anyone disclosing information to an ombudsman is on the side of the upright and honest employees who make up over 99 percent of the workforce.”

Thomas Rohrbach began his career as a lawyer in 1991. A specialist in labor and tax law, he has acquired extensive expertise advising employees and companies at national and international level. As he was active for Volkswagen in establishing and managing the humanitarian fund for forced laborers of the former Volkswagengesellschaft, he already knows the company well. He has extensive international experience and can access a worldwide network. According to Rohrbach: “As ombudsmen, we are also there to offer advice: Anyone worried about corruption can call us at any time.”

The two Frankfurt-based lawyers can be contacted by phone on +49 (0) 69 - 65 30 03 56 (Rohrbach) and +49 (0) 69 - 97 14 19 20 (Buchert). In addition, the ombudsmen have set up an international phone number to facilitate contact with Volkswagen employees and business partners outside Germany and provide their contact details in several languages.

Regardless of whether people wishing to disclose information do so by phone, fax or e-mail, Volkswagen has no access to these communication channels. Furthermore, the ombudsmen are bound by the oath of professional secrecy, which is protected by law, to treat all information in the strictest confidence, even in the event of criminal proceedings. If the information cannot be satisfactorily dealt with during a phone call, a personal meeting will usually be arranged. It is at the discretion of the person disclosing the information to decide which details the ombudsmen can forward to the company and whether anonymity should be preserved.

At Volkswagen, a team of experts will follow up every lead. The team is headed by Dr. Peter Dörfler, Head of Group Internal Auditing and responsible for anti-corruption affairs at Volkswagen, who reports to Pischetsrieder. The company gives feedback to the ombudsmen, who in turn remain in contact with those disclosing information and are thus in a position to request further details as the investigation proceeds. According to Dörfler: “For us, this exchange of information in the strictest confidence brings an important advantage compared with an anonymous letter.”

The ombudsman system of Volkswagen AG
The term “ombudsman” derives from the Swedish word for “commissioner” or “representative”. Details of how to contact the ombudsmen are available in the Group’s main languages (German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Chinese and Italian) by calling +49 (0) 69 65 30 04 90. Thomas Rohrbach can be contacted on +49 (0) 69 65 30 03 56 and Dr. Rainer Buchert on +49 (0) 61 05 92 13 55 and +49 (0) 69 97 14 19 20. The following fax number is also recommended for information in languages other than German or English: +49 (0) 69 65 00 95 23. E-mails can be sent to kanzleirohrbach@aol.com and dr-buchert@dr-buchert.de.

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