— A Volkswagen class action lawsuit has been filed by an investor who claims the "Voltswagen" April Fools' Day joke was no joke but is worthy of a lawsuit.
Plaintiff Gerald M. Montag says he purchased securities at artificially inflated prices when Volkswagen announced it was changing its name to "Voltswagen."
Also sued are Chief Executive Officer Scott Keogh and VW's Acting Head of Communications Mark Gillies.
The VW class action lawsuit includes "persons or entities who purchased or otherwise acquired publicly traded Volkswagen securities between March 29, 2021, and March 30, 2021."
On March 29, 2021, Volkswagen published a “draft” of a press release on its website for a short time announcing a name change to “Voltswagen," however the draft press release had the incorrect date of April 29.
The class action lawsuit says multiple news agencies confirmed the name change with VW, including CNBC which published a story titled, “VW accidentally leaks new name for its U.S. operations: Voltswagen.”
"Volkswagen accidentally posted a press release on its website a month early on Monday announcing a new name for its U.S. operations, Voltswagen of America, emphasizing the German automaker’s electric vehicle efforts. A person familiar with the company’s plans confirmed the authenticity of the release to CNBC. They asked to remain anonymous because the plans were not meant to be public yet." — CNBC
To “preserve elements of Volkswagen’s heritage,” the release said the company planned to retain the dark blue color of the VW logo for gas-powered vehicles and use light blue to differentiate “the new, EV-centric branding.”
The press release said Voltswagen of America would remain an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG.
Although the draft press release was quickly yanked offline, on March 30 VW republished the press release entitled, “Voltswagen: A new name for a new era of e-mobility” announcing the Company’s name change to “Voltswagen,” this time with the correct date of March 30, 2021.
But the press release was also taken down later that day.
The VW class action lawsuit alleges the automaker made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that “Voltswagen” was never going to be used by the company. Further, the plaintiff claims VW's spokespeople purposefully misled reporters regarding the alleged “joke."
“We might be changing out our K for a T, but what we aren’t changing is this brand’s commitment to making best-in-class vehicles for drivers and people everywhere.” — VW CEO Scott Keogh
Even the Associated Press was taken in by the "joke," but later released a statement about the matter.
“The Associated Press was repeatedly assured by Volkswagen that its U.S. subsidiary planned a name change, and reported that information, which we now know to be false. We have corrected our story and published a new one based on the company’s admission. This and any deliberate release of false information hurts accurate journalism and the public good.” — Lauren Easton, AP company spokeswoman
The Volkswagen class action lawsuit says the ADRs fell $2.14 per ADR, or over 5% over the next two full trading days to close at $35.58 per share on April 1, 2020, allegedly damaging investors.
In response to the Voltswagen fallout, the automaker said it couldn't "see any influence on the stock market price as a result of the advertising campaign."
The VW class action lawsuit over "Voltswagen" was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: Gerald M. Montag v. Volkswagen AG, et al.
The plaintiff is represented by the Rosen Law Firm.