German audit watchdog chief suspended over Wirecard trading


The head of the German audit watchdog was suspended with immediate effect after admitting to trading shares in Wirecard while conducting a probe into the company’s auditor, as the fraudulent collapse of the payment group continues to wreak havoc across the German corporate landscape.

The decision to move Apas chief Ralf Bose aside was designed to “safeguard” the oversight body’s “integrity” while he is investigated, said the federal office of economics and export control, an agency reporting to the economy ministry in a statement on Monday.

In a separate move, it emerged on Monday that Germany’s financial regulator BaFin, which is charged with investigating Mr Bose’s share trading, had sacked an employee for violating disclosure rules on the buying and selling of Wirecard-related securities. Three other BaFin employees are being probed over similar allegations.

Apas and BaFin, two of the most important regulators of corporate Germany, have come under fire for Wirecard-related stock market trades. In the first half of 2020, 56 BaFin employees disclosed 196 private trades in Wirecard securities.

Mr Bose did not respond to a request for comment. A former senior partner at Big Four auditor KPMG, who has headed Apas since 2016, he told the German parliament last week that he had purchased Wirecard shares in April and sold them — at a loss — the following month. At that time, Apas was in confidential talks with BaFin over Wirecard.

Matthias Hauer, an MP for Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc called Mr Bose’s suspension “a consequent move” as his share deals were “utterly unacceptable” and undermined “trust in the independence of Apas”.

BaFin in October banned employees from trading shares and other securities in companies that it oversees. An internal investigation showed four employees this year had been in breach of disclosure rules by reporting trades in Wirecard securities with two to eight-month delays.

One of the employees left BaFin at the end of November after his contract was terminated, the finance ministry said on Monday in response to a written inquiry by Frank Schäffler, an MP for the liberal Free Democrats.

“Germany’s financial regulator is acting like in a banana republic,” said Mr Schäffler, adding that this was putting pressure on finance minister Olaf Scholz.

The finance ministry said that BaFin had so far found no evidence that staff were using insider information when trading Wirecard shares and noted that the four employees who violated disclosure rules did not work in departments that were involved in the Wirecard affair.



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