Germany's BaFin regulator had just one employee overseeing Wirecard, claims the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. The online payments provider says its business "will be continued," despite its insolvency filing.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) in its Sunday edition said Germany's financial supervisory agency BaFin effectively tasked only one overseer with scrutiny of Wirecard as complex allegations spiraled in the past 16 months.
Back in January 2019, said FAZ, the Bonn-based BaFin, prompted by warnings over Wirecard, commissioned Germany's BPR financial accounting inspectorate in Berlin, but it had too few personnel. Only one employee was tasked.
The results of a special audit reportedly instigated by BaFin and DPR in February 2019, were still not available, said FAZ's Sunday edition, known as FAS.
Wirecard AG, a Munich-based payments processor, initiated insolvency protection proceedings in a Munich court on Thursday, and on Saturday said its subsidiaries were continuing operate.
Last week, it had admitted that €1.9 billion ($2.1 billion) missing from accounts in the Philippines — disclosed by external auditors — likely did not exist.
The Munich public prosecutor's office is currently investigating former chief executive Markus Braun and other former and active top managers of the DAX-30 concern.
Wirecard says it has 5,800 employees and 313,000 customers worldwide.
EU also scrutinizing German regulators
Germany's apparently fragmented oversight is to be examined by the EU's financial authority ESMA, which had been told by the European Commission to report back to it by July 15, said FAZ.
BaFin chief Felix Hufeld in May last year told a Frankfurt press conference that his agency could "not simply pin a Sheriff's badge to our lapel and ride off to arrest anyone we are suspicious of."
Only prosecuting authorities could use investigative "police means," Hufeld said: "If they conduct an investigation, that does not mean that we have been sleeping on the job."
BaFin itself was spotlighted last year after a series of reports in the Financial Times newspaper cast doubt on Wirecard's accounting practices.
Business to be 'continued'
In share market statement Saturday, Wirecard AG said its business activities "will be continued," with its management board saying this was "in the best interests of the creditors."
"The business operations of the Group companies including the licensed units are currently ongoing," it stated.
Payments for merchants of the firm's banking arm, Wirecard Bank, "will continue to be executed without restrictions," and it was in "constant contact with credit card organizations," the parent company added.
Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog imposed restrictions on Wirecard's British unit on Thursday.
That in turn, reported Reuters, had forced firms relying on Wirecard services to temporarily suspend transactions, leading customers to complain on social media about losing access to vital services — and money.
The FCA said so-called safeguarding rules should protect and return customer money if a firm were to fail.
Sarah Kocianski, head of research at the fintech consultancy 11:FS, told Reuters that the knock-on effects of the Wirecard drama posed a big test for digital firms that often relied on backend services provided by bigger players.
ipj/dr (Reuters, dpa, AFP)