Corruption starts at the top and in the case of Deutsche Bank it appears to have gone all the way to the very top.
CEO Juergen Fitschen is one of five defendants in a trial who are accused of giving false testimony in a long-running legal battle with the now defunct Kirch media group.
It’s an especially flagrant violation of the law as the charges are of an aggravated nature, and could carry a prison sentence of anywhere between one and 10 years.
The charges are just the latest in a long line of criminal and civil offenses for the bank, which has operated a wide-ranging criminal enterprise for years. Due to large amounts of money and political connections the bank, and its managers, have thus far escaped personal liability.
All fines to date, which amount to billions of dollars, have been paid by shareholders and are thus actually being paid by the public – people with pensions mostly.
“Things could get a little uncomfortable,” 66-year-old Fitschen conceded in a recent interview with the weekly magazine Stern. The statement underscores the level of contempt the bankers view the law with.
“The fatal thing is that some people have decided you’re guilty from the outset. But I was honest,” he insisted, despite presiding over a serious of criminal conspiracies at the firm.
Fitschen and four others — ex-chief executives Rolf Breuer and Josef Ackermann and former executives Clemens Boersig and Tessen von Heydebreck — are accused of giving false evidence to judges in one of the many lawsuits brought by the late media magnate Leo Kirch against the bank.
The bank is currently embroiled in several legal battles, with the accusations ranging from manipulation of the currency markets, rigging the Libor and Euribor interest rates, to doing business with countries subject to US sanctions such as Iran. The allegations represent just the surface of the concerted, international conspiracy.
In the first three months of this year alone, the bank was forced to set aside 1.5 billion euros to cover litigation costs, slicing first-quarter profits in half.
And just last week, Deutsche Bank was fined a record $2.5 billion by US and British authorities for its role in a vast multi-year conspiracy to rig Libor interest rates.
The latest revelations beg the question: at what point does banking become racketeering?