Four former Sal. Oppenheim senior bankers have been sentenced for embezzlement; one is going to jail. Risky investments that came to a head in 2009 almost spelled the end of what was once Europe's biggest private bank.
A former partner and risk manager at Sal.Oppenheim, Friedrich Carl Janssen, was sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison on Wednesday by a court in Germany's western city of Cologne, also home to the private bank.
Three of Jannsen's ex-colleagues - former CEO Matthias Graf von Krockow, former head of investment banking Dieter Pfundt and bank heir Christopher von Oppenheim - received suspended sentences of between one year and 11 months and two years.
The regional court ruled that the managers had not obtained crucial information for transactions they authorized and that they had violated the bank's internal regulations and strategy. They had also confused their own interests with that of the bank, the court said.
Specifically, they referred to a loan to, and a stake in, former Karstadt and Quelle owner Arcandor that was orchestrated by the men in 2008. The risky investment led to a loss for the bank of just under 80 million euros ($88.5 million).
Several former partners acted as guarantors for a 300-million euro loan granted by Sal. Oppenheim to Madeleine Schickedanz, a major shareholder in Arcandor. When Arcandor went bust in 2009, it triggered the bank's near demise. Schickedanz is the daughter of Gustav Schickedanz, founder of the Quelle mail order business, which was part of Arcandor.
The managers were also involved in contentious property transactions, which contributed to the bank's problems.
As a result of this and the subsequent global financial crisis, Cologne-based Sal. Oppenheim, once a flourishing private bank with a history dating back to 1789, ran into liquidity problems and was absorbed into Deutsche Bank in 2010.
Hundreds of job cuts and other streamlining measures have reduced Sal. Oppenheim to a shadow of its former self.