Deutsche Bank pays US$197 mil to settle Dutch bribery case

The US Department of Justice is also investigating the bank as part of the 1MDB probe. (Bloomberg pic)

BERLIN: Deutsche Bank settled a lawsuit from a Dutch affordable-housing provider that said the lender was responsible for bribery over derivatives trades, bringing an end to a long-running and at times colourful trial that was just entering its final stage.

The bank paid 175 million euros (US$197 million) to settle the case with no admission of liability, it said Friday in a statement.

The deal ends a court battle that had featured testimony from a middleman who’s confessed to bribery, and tales of expensive sushi, “bubbly” wine, an exclusive nightclub favoured by British royals, and meals at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

In the London suit, Stichting Vestia, a housing provider that nearly collapsed as a result of derivatives losses totalling more than 2 billion euros, sought 840 million euros in damages in a bid to recoup some of those losses.

It said some derivatives transactions with Deutsche Bank were “flawed” because the bank paid fees to a middleman when it entered into trades with the housing group.

The bank said during the trial that the middleman seemed to be a legitimate intermediary, and it denied Vestia’s allegations.

“With this settlement agreement, this dispute between Vestia and Deutsche Bank comes to an end,” Deutsche Bank said in a statement.

“We are satisfied with the result,” Vestia said in a statement. The US$197 million sum “is a substantial amount and makes a good contribution to the financial recovery.”

The case is just one of a lengthy list of legal issues that Deutsche Bank is grappling with.

The US Department of Justice is investigating the bank as part of a broadened probe of Malaysia’s scandal-plagued 1MDB investment fund.

The Vestia trial started in early May and had been scheduled to last until July 18. The settlement deal was struck as closing arguments in the trial were due to be heard.

The trial had shed light on how the lender entertained clients.

Bankers took a Vestia official to Michelin-starred restaurants and to Boujis, an exclusive London nightclub, where a group drank bottles of vodka and Dom Perignon champagne, according to the housing group’s filings.

That club is popular with younger members of the British royal family, “some of whom have made the transition to responsible parenthood,” Vestia’s lawyer Rhodri Davies said during the case.