IG Metall leader offers to resign: Politically wrong, admits Steinkuhler

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FRANZ STEINKUHLER yesterday offered to resign as the head of IG Metall, Germany's most powerful union, following fresh allegations of insider trading in the German magazine Stern.

In a letter to senior IG Metall officials, Mr Steinkuhler admitted buying DM10,000 (nearly pounds 4,000) worth of shares in Fokker shortly before the company was taken over by Dasa, the aerospace arm of Daimler-Benz. Mr Steinkuhler sits as union representative on Daimler's supervisory board.

Mr Steinkuhler said that this and the previous purchase of DM1m worth of shares of another Daimler subsidiary, Mercedes Holding, had been 'politically wrong'. Omitting to deny that he had benefited from inside information, he told union leaders that he would resign if he could not regain their trust.

Mr Steinkuhler said that he had sold all his shares and would transfer all profits to a 'solidarity account' for eastern German union members. His stock exchange activities were exposed just as the union leader was presiding over the closing stages of a bitter strike in eastern Germany over wages, prompting harsh reactions among the rank and file there.

Mr Steinkuhler said it had been wrong to deal in shares of companies on whose supervisory board he sat. 'This has shaken not just my personal credibility but also brought the union and its cause into disrepute,' he said.

Last week he denied that he had benefited from inside information in making a substantial profit by trading in Mercedes shares shortly before the announcement of a plan to swap them for Daimler stock.

Because of his position on Daimler's supervisory board there was widespread suspicion that Mr Steinkuhler knew of the deal beforehand. This view was forcefully advocated at the weekend by Karl Otto Pohl, the former Bundesbank president, whose heavyweight intervention may have been another factor prompting the IG Metall leader's change of tack.

'I am personally convinced that Steinkuhler had information because I myself was a deputy chairman of the VW supervisory board in the 1970s and know how it goes,' said Mr Pohl. 'Naturally, there is no documented information.'

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