FRANKFURT: The CEO of Germany’s largest asset manager, DWS, said on Wednesday that he will step down next week. This comes a day after prosecutors raided the company over claims that it lied to investors about “green” investments.
The raids and the departure of DWS CEO Asoka Woehrmann are another setback for Deutsche Bank (ETR: DBKGn), which owns most of DWS. Deutsche Bank has been trying to move on from regulatory violations like money laundering and misselling securities, which led to fines of billions of dollars.
Allegations against DWS have been going on for months, which is what led German prosecutors to raid DWS and the headquarters of Deutsche Bank on Tuesday.
German and U.S. officials have been looking into reports and claims from a whistleblower that DWS lied about how green the investments it sold were. This is called “greenwashing.” DWS has denied many times that it gave investors false information.
A person with direct knowledge of the situation said that the management change had been in the works for a while, but that it was finally made at meetings on Tuesday night after the raids.
Woehrmann wrote in a memo to employees that he was happy to see DWS grow, but that “allegations, no matter how false or hard to defend, have left a mark.”
“To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.”
Deutsche Bank kept most of DWS after it went public, and it has been advertising itself as a bank that companies can turn to if they want a greener future.
On Tuesday, German prosecutors said that “sufficient factual evidence has emerged” to show that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors were taken into account in a small number of investments but not at all in a large number of investments, which is different from what was said in DWS fund sales prospectuses.
Last year, both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the German financial watchdog BaFin started looking into the whistleblower’s claims. The whistleblower, who used to be the head of sustainability at DWS, said the company lied about how it used criteria for sustainable investing to manage investments.
In February, Deutsche Bank and the U.S. Department of Justice came to an agreement to keep a special monitor at the bank for longer. This was because Deutsche Bank didn’t report allegations about DWS when it should have.
Since the SEC and BaFin probes were made public in August of last year, DWS shares have dropped by 26%. At noon on Wednesday, they were down about 7%.
Magdalena Senn of the German consumer group Finanzwende said that the accusations show that “greenwashing is not a small crime.”
She said, “The raid and the resignation will send a message to other asset managers.”
Analysts at Credit Suisse said that Woehrmann’s departure was a shame because he had turned DWS around and made reforms there.
Credit Suisse said, “We think that the change in leadership means that DWS’s strategy will be uncertain for a while, and it could even make us wonder about its future as an independent asset management company.”
DWS and Deutsche Bank said on Tuesday that the asset manager had worked with authorities and regulators in the past and would continue to do so in the future.
Since the greenwashing claims came out, Woehrmann has been under pressure on many fronts.
Deutsche Bank did an internal investigation to find out if Woehrmann used his personal email for business, and the European Central Bank looked into corporate governance issues related to him.
He has also gotten threatening letters, including one in December with a racial slur, red crosshairs, and white powder.
In a DWS earnings call with analysts, when asked about the allegations, Woehrmann said he strongly denied all of them.
In January, Christian Sewing, the CEO of Deutsche Bank, said that Woehrmann had done a great job in public.
The bank said that Stefan Hoops, who has been in charge of Deutsche Bank’s corporate banking division since 2019, will take over for Woehrmann on June 10.
Hoops hasn’t managed assets in the last 20 years, but Deutsche Bank called him “a proven capital markets specialist.”
Woehrmann’s resignation starts on June 9, which is the day of the company’s annual general meeting.