F1: Toto Wolff and Lawrence Stroll under investigation (Update)

(GMM) Financial authorities have cleared Toto Wolff and Lawrence Stroll amid reports they were under investigation for a recent transaction involving Mercedes and Aston Martin.

After Wolff bought into Aston Martin last year with a personal 1 percent stake that is now worth $36 million, Mercedes followed suit by upping its stake to 20 percent.

Then, Mercedes-AMG chief Tobias Moers was appointed Aston Martin’s new CEO, with the developments prompting the opening of a financial probe into the affair by BaFin – Germany’s federal financial authority.

“The reason for this review is the possible suspicion of insider trading,” said Jean-Francois Cloutier, correspondent for Le Journal de Montreal.

The Canadian newspaper said the matter had also been passed on to the UK’s financial conduct authority, as Aston Martin’s shares are listed on the London stock exchange.

Most of the involved parties have declined to comment, except for a spokesman for the Wolff-run Mercedes team who denied Wolff knew his stake would precede the other transactions.

And the Financial Times now claims not only that BaFin has “not found evidence to proceed with an investigation”, but that the equivalent UK agency has also “not pursued an investigation”.

A BaFin spokesperson said: “I can confirm that BaFin looked into the transaction with regard to possible suspicions of insider trading, but did not find any clues.”

August 23, 2021 

According to the Journal de Montreal, European stock market authorities are investigating a large transaction that involves two of F1’s most powerful decision-makers, including multi-billionaire Lawrence Stroll, father of Quebec driver Lance Stroll.

Stroll, a major shareholder of the manufacturer Aston Martin since last year, is a good friend of Toto Wolff, the boss of the Mercedes team.

According to information obtained by the Journal de Montreal Bureau of Investigation, BaFin, the gendarme of the German stock markets, looked in November 2020 into the purchase of Aston Martin shares by Toto Wolff. The reason for this review was possible suspicion of insider trading.

The case was subsequently transferred for review to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), UK, as Aston’s shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The transaction that interests the authorities is as follows: Toto Wolff acquired in April 2020 a 0.95% stake in Aston Martin. The price paid for the shares is confidential, but considering Aston Martin’s market value, Wolff’s share is worth around $36 million.

The catch is that barely six months after this transaction, it was announced that Mercedes intended to take an additional stake of up to 20% in Aston Martin. Also, the British manufacturer announced in May 2020 the appointment as CEO of Tobias Mœrs, who was until then boss of the AMG subsidiary of Mercedes.

These two announcements coincided with a significant jump in Aston Martin’s value.

Did Toto Wolff know, at the time of acquiring a stake, that the boss of AMG was about to join Aston? Did he know that Mercedes was planning a new investment in the firm?

“No”, assured us Bradley Lord, head of communications for the Mercedes F1 team.

The latter told us that he was not aware of any ongoing audits.

“We are not aware of any such action. All the necessary disclosures were made to the British financial authorities at the appropriate time, ”he responded. More at the Journal de Montreal


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