FRANKFURT -- A key trade union figure threw his support behind Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech following a media report that some members of the carmaker's supervisory board planned to unseat him.
Earlier on Friday, Germany's Financial Times Deutschland reported that Lower Saxony's two board members plus another five members of the board representing shareholder interests were likely to rebel against Piech during a meeting on Monday, Oct. 10, in the hopes of removing him as chairman.
Piech has come under criticism for his various roles at VW and Porsche, which is buying a 19 percent stake in VW. But the head of German trade union IG Metall, Juergen Peters, has kept his support.
"The employees' side (on the board) has absolutely no cause to support a coup," Peters told Reuters. "We're not interested."
Peters's support is crucial since he serves as deputy chairman on VW's board and is one of the 10 members on the 20-member body who represent the carmaker's workforce.
The paper said it was unclear whether the 10 labor representatives on VW's board would side with Piech. It cited a supervisory board member and "another person close to the board".
IG Metall boss Peters told Reuters that Monday's board meeting, scheduled to discuss Porsche's stake buy, had been called by Piech himself, implying it was not the idea of potential rebels.
Porsche said earlier on Friday it had already secured a stake of 18.5 percent and expected delivery of the shares before the end of the month.
"Porsche is then the largest single shareholder of Volkswagen and intends to have corresponding representation in the supervisory board," it said in a statement, adding it could purchase another 3.4 percent in the market.
Although a VW law caps a shareholder from exercising more than 20 percent of the company's voting rights, a further expansion of Porsche's stake could support an argument for it to receive three seats on the board.
SCANDAL UNDERMINED POSITION
Piech has come under criticism recently due to his additional roles as a supervisory board member and large shareholder of Porsche as well as his stake in an Austrian import company that does business with VW.
In an interview with German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Lower Saxony's conservative premier Christian Wulff said corporate governance principles aiming to prevent conflicts of interest must be observed -- a reference to Piech's various roles at VW and Porsche.
Wulff and Lower Saxony economics minister Walter Hirche both sit on the board, representing the state's 18.2-percent stake.
Piech's position had already weakened over the summer after two key members of VW's personnel department were in a scandal that led to the resignation of the department's head, Peter Hartz.
Hartz was one of the few remaining management board members to have served under then VW chief executive Piech.
Earlier on Friday, the city prosecutor's office in Brunswick said it was inspecting Hartz for possible misappropriation of company funds and had searched his offices for evidence.
Peters also backed Hartz, who is a member of IG Metall, saying the investigations did not mean the ex-personnel chief and architect of Germany's labor reforms was guilty.
"There are accusations made from one side that I do not consider to be credible," he said.