The Group continues to be exposed to legal and tax risks. Provisions are recognized for those risks if and insofar as they are likely to be utilized and the amounts of the obligations can be reasonably estimated. No quantitative assessment of these risks is carried out.
Regulatory Risks. The automotive industry is subject to extensive governmental regulations worldwide. Laws in various jurisdictions regulate occupant safety and the environmental impact of vehicles, including emissions levels, fuel economy and noise, as well as the emissions of the plants where vehicles or parts thereof are produced. in case regulations applicable in the different regions are not complied with, this could result in significant penalties and reputational harm or the inability to sell vehicles in the relevant markets. The cost of compliance with these regulations is significant, and in this context, Daimler expects a significant increase in such costs.
Risks from legal proceedings in general. Daimler AG and its subsidiaries are confronted with various legal proceedings, claims as well as government investigations and orders (legal proceedings) on a large number of topics, including vehicle safety, emissions, fuel economy, financial services, dealer, supplier and other contractual relationships, intellectual property rights, warranty claims, environmental matters, antitrust matters (including actions for damages) as well as shareholder litigation. Product-related litigation involves claims alleging faults in vehicles, some of which have been made as class actions. If the outcome of such legal proceedings is detrimental to Daimler, the Group may be required to pay substantial compensatory and punitive damages or to undertake service actions, recall campaigns, monetary penalties or other costly actions. Some of these proceedings may have an impact on the Group’s reputation.
Risks from legal proceedings in connection with diesel exhaust gas emissions – Governmental proceedings. Currently, Daimler is subject to governmental information requests, inquiries, investigations, administrative orders and proceedings relating to environmental, securities, criminal, antitrust and other laws and regulations in connection with diesel exhaust emissions.
Several federal and state authorities and other institutions worldwide have inquired about and/or are conducting investigations and/or proceedings, and/or have issued administrative orders. These particularly relate to test results, the emission control systems used in Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles and/or Daimler’s interaction with the relevant federal and state authorities as well as related legal issues and implications, including, but not limited to, under applicable environmental, securities, criminal and antitrust laws. These authorities include, amongst others, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), which has requested that Daimler conduct an internal investigation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) and other US state authorities, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), the European Commission, with which Daimler has filed a leniency application and which meanwhile has opened a formal investigation into possible collusion on clean emission technology, as well as national antitrust authorities and other authorities of various foreign states as well as the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (“BaFin”), the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (“BMVI”) and the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (“KBA”). The Stuttgart district attorney’s office is conducting criminal investigation proceedings against Daimler employees on the suspicion of fraud and criminal advertising, and, in May 2017, searched the premises of Daimler at several locations in Germany. Further, Daimler comprehensively responded to the diesel emissions committee of inquiry of the German Parliament in the previous legislative period. Daimler continues to fully cooperate with the authorities and institutions. Irrespective of such cooperation, it is possible that further regulatory, criminal and administrative investigative and enforcement actions and measures relating to Daimler and/or its employees will be taken or administrative orders will be issued, such as subpoenas, i.e. legal instructions issued under penalty of law in the process of taking evidence, or other requests for documentation, testimony or other information, further search warrants, a notice of violation or an increased formalization of the governmental investigations, coordination or proceedings, including the resolution of proceedings by way of a settlement. Additionally, further delays in obtaining regulatory approvals necessary to introduce new or recertify existing vehicle models could occur.
In the second and third quarter of 2018, KBA issued administrative orders holding that certain calibrations of specified functionalities in certain Mercedes-Benz Diesel vehicles are to be qualified as impermissible defeat devices and ordered subsequent auxiliary provisions for the respective EU type approvals in this respect, including a stop of the first registration and mandatory recall. Daimler filed timely objections against such administrative orders in order to have the open legal issues resolved, if necessary by a court of law. In the course of its regular market supervision, KBA routinely conducts further reviews of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It cannot be ruled out that in the course of further investigations, KBA will issue additional administrative orders making similar findings. Daimler has implemented a temporary delivery and registration stop with respect to certain models and reviews constantly whether it can lift this delivery and registration stop in whole or in part. The new calibration requested by KBA in its administrative order of the second quarter of 2018 has meanwhile been completed and the relevant software has been approved by KBA; the related recall has in the meantime been initiated. It cannot be ruled out, however, that further delivery and registration stops may be ordered or resolved by the Company as a precautionary measure under the relevant circumstances. Daimler has initiated further investigations and otherwise continues to fully cooperate with the authorities and institutions.
In January 2019, another vehicle manufacturer reached civil settlements with US and state authorities, as well as with vehicle customers. Although the manufacturer did not admit liability, the authorities maintain the position that the manufacturer included undisclosed Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECDs) in its diesel vehicles, apparently including functionalities that are common in diesel vehicles, and that certain of these AECDs are illegal defeat devices. As part of these settlements, the manufacturer will, among other things, pay civil penalties, undertake a recall of affected vehicles, provide extended warranties, undertake a nationwide mitigation project and make other payments. The manufacturer will furthermore provide payments to current and former diesel vehicle owners as part of a class action settlement.
In light of these matters and in light of the ongoing governmental information requests, inquiries, investigations, administrative orders and proceedings, as well as our own internal investigations and the technical Compliance Management System (tCMS), which is and continues to be implemented to address the specific risks associated with the product development process throughout the group and is designed particularly to also provide guidance – taking into account technical and legal aspects – with regard to the complex interpretation of regulations, it cannot be ruled out that authorities will reach the conclusion that other passenger cars and/or commercial vehicles with the brand name Mercedes-Benz or other brand names of the group have impermissible functionalities and/or calibrations. Furthermore, the authorities have increased scrutiny of Daimler’s processes regarding running-change, field-fix and defect reporting as well as other compliance issues. The inquiries, investigations, legal actions and proceedings as well as the replies to the governmental information requests, the objection proceedings against KBA’s administrative orders and our internal investigations are still ongoing and open; hence, Daimler cannot predict the outcome at this time. If these or other information requests, inquiries, investigations, administrative orders and proceedings result in unfavorable findings, an unfavorable outcome or otherwise develop unfavorably, Daimler could be subject to significant monetary penalties, fines, remediation requirements, further vehicle recalls, further registration and delivery stops, process improvements, mitigation measures and the early termination of promotional loans, and/or other sanctions, measures and actions, including further investigations and/or administrative orders by these or other authorities and additional proceedings. The occurrence of the aforementioned events in whole or in part could cause significant collateral damage including reputational harm. Further, due to negative determinations or findings with respect to technical or legal issues by one of the various governmental agencies, other agencies could also adopt such determinations or findings, even if such determinations or findings are not within the scope of such authority’s responsibility or jurisdiction. Thus, a negative determination or finding in one proceeding carries the risk of being able to have an adverse effect on other proceedings, also potentially leading to new or expanded investigations or proceedings.
In addition, Daimler’s ability to defend itself in proceedings could be impaired by unfavorable findings, results or developments in any of the information requests, inquiries, investigations, administrative orders, legal actions and/or proceedings discussed above.
Risks from legal proceedings in connection with diesel exhaust gas emissions – Court proceedings. A consumer class-action lawsuit is pending in the United States in which it is alleged that Daimler AG and MBUSA conspired with Robert Bosch LLC and Robert Bosch GmbH (collectively, “Bosch”) to deceive US regulators and consumers. A separate lawsuit was filed in January 2019 by the State of Arizona alleging that Daimler AG and MBUSA deliberately deceived consumers in connection with the advertising of Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles. Another consumer class-action lawsuit against Daimler AG and other companies of the Group containing similar allegations was filed in Canada in April 2016. A similar class action was filed in the United States in July 2017, but in December 2017, the parties stipulated to dismiss that lawsuit without prejudice. It may be filed again under specific conditions. Furthermore, class actions have been filed in the United States and Canada alleging anticompetitive behavior relating to vehicle technology, costs, suppliers, markets, and other competitive attributes, including diesel emissions control technology. A securities class action lawsuit is pending in the United States on behalf of investors in Daimler AG American Depositary Receipts which alleges that the defendants made materially false and misleading statements about diesel emissions in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Daimler AG and the respective other affected companies of the Group regard these lawsuits as being without merit and will defend against the claims. Further details please see Note 30 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
In Germany, lawsuits by customers alleging violations of warranty and tort laws as well as lawsuits by investors alleging the violation of disclosure requirements are pending. At the end of December 2018, the regional court of Stuttgart published in the claims register an investor’s motion to initiate a model proceeding in accordance with the Act on Model Proceedings in Capital Markets Disputes (KapMuG) alleging the violation of ad hoc disclosure requirements. Currently, no model proceeding is pending. Daimler AG also regards these lawsuits as being without merit and will defend against the claims.
If court proceedings have an unfavorable outcome for Daimler, this could result in significant damages and punitive damages payments, remedial works or other cost-intensive measures. Court proceedings can in part also have an adverse effect on the reputation of the Group.
Furthermore, Daimler’s ability to defend itself in the court proceedings could be impaired by unfavorable findings, results or developments in any of the governmental proceedings discussed above.
Risks from other legal proceedings. Following the settlement decision by the European Commission adopted on July 19, 2016 concluding the trucks antitrust proceedings, Daimler AG faces customers’ claims for damages to a considerable degree. Respective legal actions, class actions and other forms of legal redress have been initiated in various states in and outside of Europe and should further be expected. Daimler takes appropriate legal remedies to defend itself.
As legal proceedings are fraught with a large degree of uncertainty, it is possible that after their final resolution, some of the provisions we have recognized for them could prove to be insufficient. As a result, substantial additional expenditures may arise. This also applies to legal proceedings for which the Group has seen no requirement to recognize a provision.
It cannot be ruled out that the regulatory risks and risks from legal proceedings discussed above individually or in the aggregate may materially adversely impact our profitability and financial position.
Although the final result of any such litigation may influence the Group’s earnings and cash flows in any particular period, Daimler believes that any resulting obligations are unlikely to have a sustained effect on the Group’s financial position.
Further information on legal proceedings is provided in Note 30 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Daimler AG and its subsidiaries operate in many countries worldwide and are therefore subject to numerous different statutory provisions and tax audits. Any changes in legislation and jurisdiction, as well as different interpretations of the law by the fiscal authorities – especially in the field of cross-border transactions - may be subject to considerable uncertainty. It is therefore possible that the provisions recognized will not be sufficient, which could have negative effects on the Group’s net profit and cash flows.
Any changes or interventions by the fiscal authorities are continuously monitored by the tax department and measures are taken if required.
As a company with worldwide activities, Daimler AG is at the focus of public interest. In this context, the relevant stakeholders’ perception is of crucial importance and can affect the reputation of the entire Daimler Group (See Non-Financial Report). A key role in the public’s current perception is played by the company’s approach to environmental, employee and social matters, fighting corruption and bribery, and respecting human rights.
Risks arise above all in connection with the public debate about diesel vehicles and the related fundamental reconsideration of methods for measuring emissions. Due to the replacement of the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) with the new measuring method WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure), the fleet CO2 average has worsened. In light of today’s knowledge, this would make it more difficult to achieve the CO2 targets as of 2020. Furthermore, there has been some pressure in the past two years on diesel technology, which is important for compliance with the challenging CO2 targets in the EU, because of NOX levels exceeding the limits at some measuring stations in cities. The current public focus on vehicle emissions as well as possible certifications stops and recalls jeopardize the reputation of the automotive industry and in particular of the diesel engine, and could result in damage to Daimler’s reputation. With the development of a new generation of diesel engines, Daimler has developed a convincing technical solution for reducing NOX emissions in real driving (real driving emissions (RDE)) and will successively introduce this innovation throughout the product range. In general, legal risks – for example in connection with antitrust investigations – as well as possible legal and social violations by partners and suppliers can have a negative impact on the reputation of the entire Daimler Group. As one of the fundamental principles of business activity, Daimler places particular priority – also in the selection of partners and suppliers – on adherence to applicable laws and ethical standards.