The pressure on Wirecard boss Markus Braun increases. According to SPIEGEL information, the financial regulator BaFin has indications that the DAX company could have manipulated the stock market. Therefore, she filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office in Munich against Braun and his three colleagues on the board – a step that the authority rarely takes. In addition, the Group’s business premises at its headquarters in Aschheim near Munich were searched on Friday.
The prosecutor confirmed the information. The occasion is with two possibly misleading Wirecard mandatory notices from March 12 and April 22. In these, the payment processor informed its investors about a special report, let alone published, that had not yet been completed at the time and which he himself had commissioned from the auditing firm KPMG in autumn 2019.
The reason for the report was allegations that Wirecard was hairdressing its balance sheets, pretending deals and inventing business partners. Originally, the report was to be published early in the first quarter and, Wirecard hopes, will relieve the company and give its share a boost. In fact, KPMG only submitted the report at the end of April, with some devastating conclusions about the seriousness of the management. The experts did not find any evidence of deception. But KPMG lacked important documents and access to the IT system for the complete clarification of all allegations. Interview dates with Wirecard managers have been postponed several times by the company.
Clues to misleading information
Even though the expert opinion was delayed, Wirecard already gave the impression in its mandatory notices that the company had nothing to fear before publication. The headline of the mandatory announcement of March 12 states: “KPMG’s special investigation has no impact on the annual financial statements of the investigation period in the investigation areas of India, Singapore and Merchant Cash Advance.” The message of April 22 is headed with: “Special investigation by KPMG continues until April 27, 2020. The investigation has so far not provided any evidence of manipulation of the balance sheet.”
According to SPIEGEL information, Bafin sees indications of misleading information prior to the publication of the KPMG report – and thus for information-based market manipulation. SPIEGEL.de had already reported on May 8 that it could get this far.
The Bafin herself did not want to comment on the case on request. It only announced that it would report any indications of late, incomplete or misleading information about inside information. The public prosecutor did not provide any further information on the result of the search and further steps, “also in order not to have any influence on the company’s share price”.
The air is getting thinner
With the current development, the air is getting thinner and thinner for Braun and his board colleagues Jan Marsalek, Alexander von Knoop and Susanne Steidl. The criticism from investors focuses on Braun and Marsalek, who have worked in the group for decades. Braun is also a major shareholder with a good seven percent.
The contracts of all four board members end on December 31 of this year, which is also extremely unusual. In the past, Chairman of the Supervisory Board Thomas Eichelmann made it clear that an extension of the contracts also depends on whether Wirecard and its top managers come out of the headlines. This cannot be said after today’s step.
And the next showdowns are imminent: on June 18, Wirecard finally wants to present its balance sheet for 2019; the publication had to be postponed several times because the KPMG report was not yet available. At the end of August, the Annual General Meeting, which was originally dated earlier, will take place. It could be the last for CEO Braun and his colleagues.