Deutsche Bank struggles to rise above allegations
Jürgen Fitschen and Anshu Jain took over as joint chief executives of Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, in June. Just six months later, they are besieged by allegations of faulty risk management, tax evasion and interference in investigations.
On Wednesday, December 12th, hundreds of investigators filed into the bank’s twin towers in Frankfurt, with armed police backup and a police helicopter hovering overhead.
A state investigator marched into Mr Fitschen’s office to announce the raid, based on suspicion that the bank was involved in VAT fraud arising from the trade in carbon emission certificates. Five bank managers are on remand, but it is Mr Fitschen’s signature on the suspicious tax returns.
The investigation centres on companies which, through a network of front firms, are suspected of incorrectly claiming some €211 million in tax rebates from the trade in carbon tax certificates.
When the prosecutor departed, Mr Fitschen called Volker Bouffier, governor of the state of Hesse, complaining that the raid could ruin the reputation of his bank. Mr Bouffier refused to discuss the investigation of the independent prosecutor.
A Deutsche Bank veteran of 26 years, Mr Fitschen appears to have inherited a poisoned chalice from former chief executive Josef Ackermann. It faces a litany of problems, including an investigation into its involvement in the global interest rate-fixing scandal and a long-running €1 billion legal battle with Germany’s Kirch media group.
The new chief executives vowed to renew the corporate culture at the bank; its reputation suffered after it was found guilty of mis-selling risky credit products.
The US Senate named the German bank alongside Goldman Sachs as the two institutions that played a “key role” in the financial crisis. It faces a series of potentially expensive lawsuits as a result, from insurance companies, other banks and pension funds.
Meanwhile, Mr Fitschen’s Indian-born co-chief executive, Anshu Jain, is coming under scrutiny for his time as head of Deutsche’s investment banking operation. With no end in sight to investigations on all fronts, Germany’s only remaining bank of international standing is facing renewed calls for it to be broken up.