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German court drops trial of Deutsche Bank CEO and others over Mannesmann payments

German court drops trial of Deutsche Bank CEO and others over Mannesmann payments

A court on Wednesday dropped proceedings against Deutsche Bank AG CEO Josef Ackermann and five others over a 2000 takeover battle, ending a lengthy legal saga that had weighed on the future of Germany's most prominent banker.
The Duesseldorf state court approved a proposal by prosecutors that will see the defendants make a payment totaling euro5.8 million (US$7.6 million) in return for charges being dropped. Prosecutors have said that the payment is not a fine and "the presumption of innocence remains valid."
The six went on trial for a second time in late October over disputed bonuses paid to bosses at German phone company Mannesmann AG when it was acquired by Vodafone Group PLC.
Ackermann, who sat on Mannesmann's board at the time, and the others denied that they illegally engineered bonuses worth nearly euro60 million (US$79 million).
The defense had rejected charges of breach of trust, arguing that the payouts to Mannesmann bosses were appropriate compensation for driving a hard bargain and securing a better price for shareholders during the takeover battle. Prosecutors contended the defendants violated an obligation to be good stewards of the company's money.
However, prosecutors said last week that dropping charges in exchange for payments was a better solution than pushing ahead with long, complicated proceedings, given that the culpability of the defendants and their possible punishments are limited.
Lawyers for Ackermann agreed that the case should be dropped. They forecast that the court would struggle to establish the legality of the Mannesmann rewards.
Under the deal to end the trial, Ackermann will pay euro3.2 million (US$4.2 million), former Mannesmann CEO Klaus Esser euro1.5 million (US$2 million), and former Mannesmann Chairman Joachim Funk euro1 million (US$1.3 million).
The other defendants _ Mannesmann personnel chief Dietmar Droste, former board members Juergen Ladberg and Klaus Zwickel, the former head of Germany's IG Metall labor union _ are to pay lower sums. Of the payments, 60 percent is earmarked for the state and 40 percent for charity.
Ackermann and the others were acquitted at a first trial in 2004. After prosecutors appealed, a federal court last December ordered a retrial.
Ackermann had said he would resign his post at Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, if convicted. His board of directors has stood behind him during the two trials.
Ackermann received no money himself, and his activities at Deutsche Bank were not part of the trial.
However, his unapologetic style _ posing for photographers at the first trial with his fingers raised in a victory sign _ have made him into a symbol of corporate greed in Germany.


Updated : 2021-10-17 23:07 GMT+08:00