Volkswagen Elevates In-House Veteran to Global Legal Chief (1)

Volkswagen AG, the German automaker embroiled in ongoing emissions-related litigation, has shaken up its in-house legal ranks in the U.S. and its home country.

The company announced this week that chief legal officer Manfred Döss stepped down as of Feb. 1 to join Volkswagen’s executive board as its point person for integrity and legal affairs. Succeeding Döss as global legal chief is Philip Haarmann, a former head of corporate and regulatory who has worked at Volkswagen since 2012.

Haarmann’s ascension follows the departure last year of David Detweiler, a former Clifford Chance partner who was tapped by Volkswagen in 2016 to become its head of U.S. legal. Detweiler was replaced as general counsel for Herndon, Va.-based Volkswagen of America Inc. by Stephan Halstrup, a German lawyer and former head of product defense law at Volkswagen.

Halstrup, Haarmann, and Döss all played key roles in advising Volkswagen on a $4.3 billion settlement with U.S. regulators in 2017, in which the company admitted it misled regulators and customers about diesel engine emissions. Volkswagen is still fighting lawsuits stemming from the fallout of its so-called Dieselgate scandal.

Sullivan & Cromwell, Steptoe & Johnson, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and German law firms Gleiss Lutz and Krause & Kollegen advised Volkswagen on the settlement agreement. Sullivan & Cromwell has had a role on more than 42% of Volkswagen’s U.S. federal litigation caseload in the last five years, per Bloomberg Law data.

Robert Giuffra, a Sullivan & Cromwell litigation partner who has served as lead counsel to Volkswagen in various class actions and government investigations related to diesel emissions, was named a vice chair of the firm last year.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld was paid $90,000 by the automaker last year to lobby several U.S. regulatory bodies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, according to filings with the U.S. Senate.

Volkswagen has roughly 250 employees in its corporate legal department, according to German legal publication Juve.

Halstrup joined Volkswagen a decade ago after working as counsel in the Brussels office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He succeeded Detweiler as Volkswagen’s top U.S. lawyer in July 2021, said Caroline Friend, an executive coordinator for the company. Detweiler couldn’t immediately be reached.