Status: 26.03.2021 9:40 p.m.
Before the Wirecard collapse, BaFin took a controversial measure to give the impression that it wanted to protect the company. This led many investors astray. In the investigation committee, BaFin boss Hufeld has now admitted errors.
The outgoing head of the BaFin financial supervisory authority, Felix Hufeld, has admitted omissions in the fraud scandal involving Wirecard AG. After BaFin banned speculation on falling share prices, his authority did not make it clear enough that this step did not mean taking sides with Wirecard, said Hufeld in the Bundestag investigative committee. That was undoubtedly a failure.
In contrast to the information available at the time, the ban itself was “almost imperative” for him, according to Hufeld. “To do nothing, that seemed completely out of the question to me.”
“We didn’t do that well”
In February 2019, more than a year before the Wirecard collapse, BaFin issued a so-called short sale ban. She wanted to take action against short sellers who bet on falling prices and therefore often publish negative information about a company. However, the ban gave many investors the impression that reports of irregularities at Wirecard were false and that the company was merely the victim of an attack.
Hufeld said that BaFin actually wanted to communicate clearly at the time that it was not an individual company but market trust in general that was to be protected. “We didn’t do that well,” said Hufeld. In retrospect, this should have been written directly into the order on the ban on short selling.
BaFin management wanted to avert danger
The trigger for the ban was information from the Munich public prosecutor’s office about an imminent short-selling attack and alleged blackmail of the Wirecard company. He himself and BaFin Vice-President Elisabeth Roegele had the impression that they could “actually do security in the real sense,” said Hufeld.
The story about a blackmail attempt sounded outrageous, but it came from one of the largest public prosecutors. Therefore, they have been taken seriously.
BaFin Vice Roegele sees no serious mistake
Roegele had previously testified in the committee of inquiry. She made it clear that she did not see the controversial short sale ban as a serious mistake. However, you take responsibility for this measure.
“We were not the prosecutor’s henchmen,” said Roegele, who left BaFin at the end of April. The financial supervisory authority had received serious information from the public prosecutor that there was insider trading. The Federal Ministry of Finance had been informed in advance of BaFin’s intention. The ministry saw no reason to intervene.
Wirecard had admitted a balance gap of 1.9 billion euros last summer. The alleged fraud was apparently not noticed by auditors or the financial regulator for years. BaFin is therefore accused of having failed in the Wirecard case.
Russian tweet causes a stir
At today’s meeting of the investigative committee, in addition to the statements by Hufeld and Roegele, a tweet from the Russian Foreign Ministry caused a stir. It was about one of the key figures in the balance sheet fraud scandal, former Wirecard sales director Jan Marsalek, who went into hiding.
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Sakharova, wrote on Twitter that the investigation into the Wirecard insolvency in Germany is continuing: “The speculation about the supposedly close ties between the managing director J. Marsalek and the special services of Russia are causing confusion. We are warning Germany against this to politicize this story. ”
“Tweet bursts like a bomb in the deliberations”
The SPD chairman in the committee of inquiry, Jens Zimmermann, read the tweet in the committee. What exactly the Russian Foreign Ministry was referring to is unclear. In the morning a representative of the Chancellery was asked in a closed meeting whether the Chancellery knew where Marsalek was. Zimmermann told the dpa news agency: “Today’s statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry is bursting like a bomb in the deliberations of the Wirecard investigative committee.”
Connections from Jan Marsalek to Russia have long been in the room, as well as speculation about his whereabouts, said the SPD chairman. “Why the Russian government now feels compelled to take this step raises new questions. Instead of a clear rejection of possible connections, the Bundestag is apparently to be intimidated in its investigation.”