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Business

Ackermann to Face Charges in "Mannesmann Affair"

A court has handed down a ruling calling for Josef Ackermann, the chief of Deutsche Bank to be tried on charges of dishonest behavior relating to Vodaphone's 2000 takeover of Mannesmann.

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Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann will face charges for his role in the Mannesmann takeover.

A regional court in Düsseldorf has ruled to admit charges of fraud against Josef Ackermann, the Swiss-born chief executive of Deutsche Bank.

Ackermann and five others were charged in February with fraud relating to the 2000 takeover of the German mobile phone giant Mannesmann by its British rival Vodafone. The case has since become known as the "Mannesmann Affair."

A spokesman for the court declined to comment on the case, stating that those affected had to be notified first. Payments for takeover approval?

According to the 580-page document outlining the charges, which was released in February, Ackermann and five others authorized what have been described by some observers as "bribery" payments to help facilitate the takeover.

Klaus Esser, the then-chief executive of Mannesmann, received payments and bonuses totaling more than €58 million that are now the subject of scrutiny. According to the allegations, these payments -- a €15 million "appreciation award" and €43 million in other payments -- were given to Mr. Esser so that he would drop his objections to the €175 million takeover of Mannesmann by Vodafone, the largest in corporate history.

Ackermann and five others, including former IG Metall Chief Klaus Zwickel, are said to have approved the payments as members of the compensation committee of Mannesmann's supervisory board.

A trial could have far-reaching implications for German business. Though Germany has one of the smallest pay differentials between board members and average employees, a trial could prompt a debate about corporate compensation, which could henceforth make them subject to drastic limitations. Some experts have warned that such a move would make it difficult for multi-national firms to operate from Germany. Deutsche Bank stands by its man

Deutsche Bank, in a statement released on Friday, came to the defense of its embattled chief executive, stating that Ackermann has the full support of Deutsche Bank's board of directors and its supervisory board. A spokesman for the bank said management was convinced that Ackermann behaved correctly and appropriately during the Mannesmann takeover and the allegations were baseless. According to the statement, Ackermann "would defend himself with the utmost force."

Ackermann has denied the charges. In a note released to Deutsche Bank's staff a day after the charges were filed in February, Eberhard Kempf, Ackermann's defense lawyer, said the indictment was groundless and based on a weak legal argument which rested on questionable evidence. Kempf wrote: "The indictment ultimately fails to state where there is supposed to be a serious breach of corporate law duties, which is the precondition for a breach of trust."

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