FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) expects former board members to contribute substantial sums toward the costs of its past misconduct as Germany’s biggest lender seeks to rebuild its reputation, its chairman Paul Achleitner said.
Achleitner told shareholders at Deutsche Bank’s annual general meeting on Thursday that its supervisory board and two committees were discussing the need for personal and collective responsibility and the bank had sought external legal advice.
“The supervisory board expects that in the coming months, there will be an arrangement which ensures that the individuals involved make a substantial financial contribution,” he said, adding that while no decision had yet been reached, discussions were at an advanced stage.
The talks are focusing on why Deutsche Bank’s own response was so slow, as well as its involvement in a series of financial scandals, Deutsche Bank sources told Reuters. Collective responsibility of the board for the bank’s actions as a whole were at the center of the talks, rather than personal failure or involvement in individual litigation cases, they added.
Achleitner did not name any individuals, but Deutsche Bank sources said the board is in talks with around ten people, including former chief executives Anshu Jain, Juergen Fitschen and Josef Ackermann. Talks are underway with other former board members including Stephan Leithner, Rainer Neske, Henry Ritchotte, Stefan Krause and current board member Stuart Lewis.
Deutsche Bank said Lewis would not comment, while spokesmen for Jain, Ackermann and Neske said they would not comment. The other former managers did not respond to requests for comment.
If Deutsche Bank reaches settlements with former executives, it would mark a significant step in efforts to break with a turbulent period in the bank’s 147-year history.
Such settlements are fairly rare, according to Michael Kramarsch, an expert on executive compensation and managing partner of consultancy HKP Group.
“This is a moment where the compensation regime in banks kicks in in full drastic and dramatic force,” Kramarsch said. “This is what banking compensation regulation was designed for, as cynical as it sounds.”
Deutsche Bank transformed itself into a major player on Wall Street over the past two decades, but extravagant bets and poor conduct have resulted in a litigation bill of 15 billion euros ($16.7 billion) since 2009.
And while rivals spent the years after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers cleaning up and finding new business models, Deutsche Bank was slow to restructure and improve compliance.
The bank has settled its most painful litigation cases, including alleged manipulation of interest rates and sham equities trading in Russia, which surfaced as late as 2015.
And at the end of last year it finally settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for mis-selling toxic mortgages, agreeing to pay $7.2 billion.
The bank tried to salvage its reputation with the publication in February of an unprecedented apology in the form of an open letter signed by its CEO John Cryan.
“We will do everything in our power to prevent a repetition of such incidents,” Cryan wrote in the letter, although some investors are not yet convinced of real change.
“We remain underwhelmed by Deutsche’s progress on culture,” Hans-Christoph Hirt, head of investor and shareholder advisor Hermes EOS, said.
And Andreas Thomae from fund manager Deka was also wary.
“We as investors are noticing the slow cultural change.”
Deutsche Bank, which Cryan said failed over the last two years to communicate its actions to the public, is now launching a social media campaign to rebuild its image.
“I am firmly convinced that our bank does a great deal of good,” Cryan told shareholders. “People hardly see that any more — indeed, we’ve forgotten how to see it ourselves.”
In another sign of increased communication, Deutsche Bank granted Germany’s top two television stations access to executives for long reports that aired this week.
ZDF broadcast its version, a 45-minute documentary entitled “Inside Deutsche Bank – Giant with no Future?” on Wednesday and focused in part on the turnover of top management.
Sylvie Matherat, one of the bank’s newer board members, said it was getting a much-needed electric shock.
Editing by Maria Sheahan and Alexander Smith; additional reporting by Edward Taylor