Institute for Financial Transparency

Shining a light on the opaque corners of finance


Deutsche Bank’s hollow apology

Shortly after settling with and agreeing to pay a several billion dollar fine to the US for its pre-2008 handling of mortgage-backed securities, Deutsche Bank took the extraordinary step of buying ads in all the major German newspapers to apologize for the misbehavior by its employees.  As Bloomberg reported,

Legal cases that date back many years cost the Frankfurt-based company “reputation and trust” in addition to about 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) since John Cryan took over as chief executive officer in July 2015, the CEO said in the ad, blaming the “misconduct of a few” employees….

Suggesting misconduct was limited to a few employees is the first indication this might not be a serious apology.  Consider for a second how many individuals were involved in the sale of the mortgage-backed securities and the word “few” is easily seen as  a severe understatement of the problem.

Cryan, who signed on behalf of the executive board, expressed “deep regret” that “the conduct of the bank didn’t follow our standards” in relation to the U.S. mortgage business in 2005 to 2007 and was “unacceptable.” That was also the case in other matters, he wrote….

Other matters?

Yes, wherever bankers engaged in bad behavior behind the veil of opacity you were likely to find Deutsche Bank.  Apparently, its bankers never saw an opaque financial market they were not happy to rig for their benefit.  The mortgage-backed securities market is just the latest example.  In the meantime, the bank is still being investigated for manipulating foreign-exchange and precious metal markets.

So what to do about a culture of misbehaving behind a veil of opacity?

Deutsche Bank’s leadership will “do everything in our power to prevent these events from re-occurring,” Cryan said in the ad.

Deutsche Bank’s leadership would like you to trust them that despite ample evidence suggesting rigging financial markets and products for their benefit is part of the bank’s culture this is no longer the case.

With Deutsche Bank’s recent history, this notion of trusting them is unworthy of the German taxpayers who read the apology.

As everyone knows, sunlight is the best disinfectant.  If Deutsche Bank is truly serious and wants to end bad behavior, THE proven way to do so is provide transparency.

If Deutsche Bank’s leadership really wants to end banker misbehavior, they will adopt the level of transparency necessary to qualify for a label from the Transparency Label Initiative.

Anything less is an indication Deutsche Bank’s leadership isn’t sorry about its bankers engaging in bad behavior.  Rather, it is an indication Deutsche Bank’s leadership is sorry the bankers were caught.