US fines Deutsche Bank US$16 mil to settle China, Russia corruption charges

Securities and Exchange Commission alleges Germany’s largest lender hired poorly qualified or unqualified relatives of officials in Asia and Russia at their request. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay more than US$16 million to settle charges that it violated US corruption laws by hiring relatives of foreign government officials in order to win or retain business, the US regulator said in a statement.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleged that Germany’s largest lender hired poorly qualified or unqualified relatives of officials in Asia and Russia at their request, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Between at least 2006 and 2014, it said Deutsche employed relatives of executives working at state-owned enterprises in China and Russia with the “primary goal” of generating business for the company such as initial public offerings.

The SEC also found that Deutsche employees created false books and records that concealed corrupt hiring practices and failed to accurately document and record certain related expenses, violating internal accounting rules.

Under the settlement, Deutsche Bank did not admit or deny the findings, the SEC said.

“Deutsche Bank provided substantial cooperation to the SEC in its inquiry and has implemented numerous remedial measures to improve the bank’s hiring practices,” a Deutsche spokesman said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The US$16 million settlement includes disgorgement of US$10.8 million, interest of US$2.4 million and a US$3 million civil penalty, the SEC said.

Russia misconduct

Deutsche is one of several global banks to be investigated over the hiring of so-called “princelings” in China.

In 2016, JPMorgan agreed to pay US authorities US$264 million to resolve allegations it hired the relatives of Chinese officials to win banking deals, while Credit Suisse paid US$77 million to settle a similar case last year.

However there have been fewer investigations of similar instances in Russia.

The SEC said that from 2009 to 2012 “Deutsche Bank employees hired relatives at the request of foreign officials in Russia to obtain or retain business or other benefits.”

It gave an example from 2009 in which the bank was asked by an unnamed “deputy minister” at a Russian government entity to hire his daughter.

“We must do it! We should have her in London as it is NOT politically correct to have her in Moscow!” the SEC quoted the bank’s Russia chief in an email to his supervisors back then.

Deutsche hired the daughter as a temporary employee in Moscow, according to the SEC.

Four months later the bank failed to win a deal it had sought from the Russian government.

The lender then arranged for the daughter to be given a permanent job and transferred to London, and 10 days later Deutsche Bank received a request for proposal signed by her father for a “€2 billion Eurobond issuance”, the SEC said.

In a case in 2010 Deutsche hired the son of a senior executive at a Russian state-owned company in Moscow at that executive’s request, according to the SEC.

The bank then transferred him to a graduate programme in London despite the human resources department saying he was “likely not eligible” for the scheme.

After two months the bank transferred him back to Moscow after human resources said he “failed to come to work, cheated on an exam and was a ‘liability to the reputation of the programme, if not the firm.”

The SEC said Deutsche had taken extensive remedial measures to fix its hiring compliance and internal accounting controls.