A member of the Deutsche Bank supervisory board urged WirecardMarkus Braun, former CEO of ‘do [the Financial Times] in !! “on his critical coverage of the now disgraced payment company.
Austrian financier Alexander Schütz, who has been a member of Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board since 2017, emailed Mr Braun in February 2019 in which he called on the Wirecard boss to show ‘more dedication’ by refuting the FT’s reports on the group.
At the time, Wirecard strongly pushed back coverage. The email, seen by the Financial Times, was sent a few weeks after a FT report in whistleblower allegations accounting manipulation in the Asian company of Wirecard.
“I read in the FT how naughty you are ;-)”, wrote Mr Schütz to Mr Braun, adding that he had bought shares in Wirecard the previous week. In the email, which mainly dealt with a possible joint leave, Mr Schütz urged Mr Braun to “make this diary in !!” :-). “
Mr Braun replied that he had canceled his subscription to the newspaper, but was confident that the discussion of possible misconduct at Wirecard “will quickly move in a different direction.”
The email appeared in the wee hours of Friday morning during the last hearing of German parliamentary inquiry into Wirecard collapse, which imploded last June in one of the country’s biggest post-war accounting frauds.
In addition to questioning auditors, lenders and Wirecard management, MPs reviewed thousands of documents handed over by the payment provider’s administrator, government agencies and other institutions.
The once-praised payments group was quick to intimidate critics, spying on some and submitting them to hacking attacks. In March 2019, Wirecard deposit legal action against FT, demanding financial compensation for the alleged use and misrepresentation of trade secrets.
Mr Schütz, who joined the supervisory board when Chinese conglomerate HNA took a stake in Deutsche Bank, said on Friday he apologized for the comments in the email.
“I believed Mr. Braun in early 2019 that Wirecard was a reputable company that had been wrongly defamed,” Mr. Schütz said in a statement, adding that at the time he believed short sellers had launched a press campaign against the company.
“In the meantime, it became clear that I was wrong. Therefore, I formally apologize to the FT and its journalists for this emotional and inappropriate statement. The newspaper made a significant contribution to uncovering the scandal, Schütz said, adding that “the team around Dan McCrum deserves to be commended for this”.
Deutsche Bank said the bank only learned of the email’s existence early Friday, when chief executive Christian Sewing was asked about it by MPs as he testified to the inquiry. Mr. Sewing declined to comment on MPs.
In a statement later on Friday, Deutsche Bank said: “As a matter of principle, we do not comment on private statements made by members of the supervisory board”. But “apart from that, both the content and the attitude of the quoted statement are unacceptable – whatever the source”.
Jens Zimmermann, Member of the Social Democrats, described Mr Schütz’s remarks as “rather revealing” and that “the doubts [over Mr Schütz], which were marked in 2017 by the circumstances of his appointment to the supervisory board, seem to have been justified.
Mr. Schütz is a longtime friend and associate of Christian Angermayer, the German financier who played a key role by helping HNA raise its stake in Deutsche Bank. The conglomerate has since sold its stake.
In addition to investing in a number of companies with Mr. Schütz, Mr. Angermayer also negotiated SoftBank’s € 900 million investment in Wirecard in 2019.
A lawyer for Mr. Braun did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
With additional reporting by Robert Smith in London