The Deutsche Bank Downfall How a Pillar of German Banking Lost Its Way


By , Hauke Goos and

Part 6: Rules Are for Fools

VI. Rules Are for Fools

Deutsche Bank had its fingers in every pie, earning the most when its own clients are suffering. The 2000s looked like a police report.

In April 2002, the German paper Welt am Sonntag printed an interview with "exemplary banker" Friedrich Wilhelm Christians. Christians was Deutsche Bank's management board spokesman before he moved to the supervisory board in 1988. Christians was celebrating his 80th birthday a few days later and agreed to answer a few questions about the good old days and the bank's current situation.

Christians was asked if he found the high salaries and other activities of the investment bankers to be justified. "Of course not," he replied. "A bank with over 100 years of success and tradition destroys a lot with this kind of activity. It was always something special to work at Deutsche Bank. These young guys don't care. They only care about making sure that their bonuses are paid."

It was a voice from the past -- that wasn't heard in Ackermann's Executive Committee in Frankfurt. Their language was English, and many likely didn't even know who this old Christians guy was anyway.

The transformation of Deutsche Bank had largely been completed. Germany's largest commercial bank had become an Anglo-American investment bank. Before long, the British magazine Economist would, in a perceptive article, refer to Deutsche as a "giant hedge fund." The era of enormous excesses began, an era of ludicrous mistakes and of intentional and frivolous misdeeds whose legal ramifications are still eating away at Deutsche Bank's balance sheet.

The years that followed were filled with egregious activities that state agencies would later spend years examining. Starting in 2005, Deutsche Bank began selling huge quantities of dubiously structured, repeatedly reassembled and newly packaged mortgage loans.

Starting in 1999, and continuing at least until 2006, the bank engaged in deals in Libya, Iran, Burma, Syria, Cuba and North Korea, many of them suspected of having been conducted in violation of US sanctions, including money laundering.

Starting in 2003, the bank is thought to have manipulated currency trading with the help of illegal software, thus purloining money from many thousands of customers.

In 2005, Deutsche Bank hurt mid-sized companies and German municipalities by selling them derivative financial products known as Spread Ladder Swaps, which failed to bring the advertised savings, instead resulting in losses.

Starting in 2008, the bank began helping US citizens hide unreported income in Swiss bank accounts.

Starting in 2009, the bank became part of a tax avoidance scheme involving CO2 certificates.

In November 2010, Deutsche Bank traders in South Korea manipulated the country's leading stock index through the 1.6 billion euro sale of a bundle of stocks.

Starting in 2011, Deutsche Bank employees in Moscow and London helped transfer rubles worth 10 billion dollars out of Russia in daily tranches without a recognizable commercial purpose.

In 2011, Deutsche Bank was involved in the flourishing business of "Dark Pools," trading platforms that allow both buyers and sellers to remain anonymous -- but the bank was accused of having manipulated the prices of the securities to the detriment of the customers.

When several banks banded together to manipulate the Libor, the interbank interest rate, Deutsche Bank was involved.

When gold and silver prices were manipulated, Deutsche Bank came under suspicion.

All of that, and the above list is just a sampling, took place during the years Josef Ackermann was the absolute sovereign of Deutsche Bank. Did he lose oversight? Or did he allow it to happen? Did the bank's all-powerful controller lose control?

They were years when Ackermann did everything in his power to improve the bottom line, and Anshu Jain and his team delivered. It was Jain who created structures that allowed for even greater profit, but were also open to manipulation. Later, he would establish the narrative that the problems were all caused by individuals -- black sheep -- at the bank, but investigative reports compiled by state agencies have revealed Deutsche Bank's failings and trickery to be systemic and organizational in nature.

The Libor rate, for example, which is vital for businesses and savers alike, could be manipulated because the bankers involved in the calculation of the interest rate were encouraged by Anshu Jain's management team to consult with traders within the bank who had made bets on exactly this interest rate.

On the eve of the financial crisis, the bank allowed itself a particularly notable bit of treachery, one which destroyed what was left of its once unassailable reputation. It didn't just sell its customers securities whose worthlessness was already apparent to the bank's own traders, but allowed its own investment bankers to place bets on Wall Street on those securities' further loss of value -- and grab just a bit more off the top at the cost of its own customers.

Greg Lippmann, who joined Deutsche Bank in 2000, is the name of the trader who ultimately bet 5 billion dollars against his own products. His story, which has since been turned into a movie, can be read in a report on the causes of the financial crisis assembled by the US Senate. The report also contains testimony that, on three occasions in the winter of 2007, Lippmann obtained permission from Anshu Jain to continue with his extremely amoral activities. Lippmann allegedly earned $1.5 billion for the bank with such bets. It would be interesting to know if, as billions were disappearing around the world in 2008, he received a nice bonus for his efforts.


Discuss this issue with other readers!
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fish2064 10/28/2016
Eight pages the all you needed was one word: GREED.
herrD 10/29/2016
2. Precisions on the assassination of Alfred Herrhausen
Strategically far-sighted, Alfred Herrhausen had proposed for quite some time a remission of debt for developing countries, especially in the year of the crash of 1987. In the eyes of his enemies (ultra neo-liberals) his proposals were absolutely unbearable. Some speculate that in view of the complex nature of the assassination, Secret Service / CIA may have been involved. All of Mr. Herrhausen’s proposals for structural changes to the Deutsche Bank as well as the idea of debt relief to third-world countries were abandoned by his successor Mr. Hilmar Kopper and belittled as “not-to-be-taken-serious” expressions of Herrhausen’s ideas.
ptl88 10/29/2016
3. Deutsche Bank
I hope Deutsche Bank survives this very dark chapter of its history and eventually prosper again as any major country needs a strong domestic bank. The whole world has changed drastically since the collapse of Soviet Union when communism stops challenging democracy. I wonder the financial engineering genius that gave us the derivative markets deserves Noble prize in Economics? Are the profits (savings) in derivatives real or perceived?
acpacker 10/30/2016
A wonderfully xenophobic piece about how the upright upstanding Germans were forced into wrong-doing by the Anglo-Saxon axis of evil. Never mind that this was a German bank run by Germans. You the Germans went and hired a hired a bunch of narcissistic industrial psychopaths out of pure greed. No one made you do it. The German Board must accept full responsibility. Stop blaming other people for your mistakes, its not the first time we have observed this culture of blame. Lets have the next article on how the the Volkswagen scandal was engineered by foreigners, we realise Germans would never do anything like that.
m_nadrakas 10/30/2016
5. Globalism
Deutsche Bank is the victim of Globalism, as many companies, industries and nations have also been victims of the insidious Siren call that has for decades been heard around the world. It is time for the Nations of the world to reevaluate their own fortunes, industries, and sovereignty with an eye toward combating the dangers of Globalism. When a company, industry, or nation looses who they are -- looses their identity and their own sovereignty to outside influences then the question needs to be asked: "Is this who we are? Who we want to be?" Globalism is not the answer. Pride in ones self, and ones own nation is the answer. It does not mean hatred of others either; indeed, we can admire and respect each other...and we should do so. However, Globalism is leading to a loss of who we are, who all of us are. - Let us be proud of our past. - Let us be proud of our nations. - We have nothing to fear in doing so. Peace. ~ Nadrakas
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