Deutsche boss faces Mannesmann retrial

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The Independent Online

The Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann was under increasing pressure to resign yesterday after an appeals court ordered he face a retrial for his role in Vodafone's controversial €180bn (£122bn) takeover of its German mobile phone rival Mannesmann in 2000.

In an initial trial last year, Mr Ackermann and five other former Mannesmann executives were acquitted of criminal action for awarding the company's board members an unprecedented €68m in bonuses after the takeover was concluded five years ago.

The executives had maintained the payments were merely a reward for hard work in securing the takeover, which more than doubled the Mannesmann share price. Mr Ackermann claimed during the trial that Germany was the only country in which executives were prosecuted for "creating wealth".

But Germany's highest appeals court ruled yesterday that the case be reopened. Klaus Tolksdorff, the presiding judge, said: "The bonuses were nothing other than a waste of money which ran against their fiduciary duty. Punishable behaviour will not go unpunished just because some parties set themselves above the law."

The appeals court ruling sided with German public opinion and the prosecution's argument, which claimed that Mr Ackermann and his fellow executives had failed to safeguard Mannesmann's assets during the takeover and had in effect sold shareholders short.

The ruling prompted widespread calls from politicians and shareholder protection groups for the Deutsche Bank chief's resignation. Otto Bernhardt, a conservative financial expert in Angela Merkel's government, said he expected Mr Ackermann to step down.But the Deutsche Bank board said it had no doubt he would continue his work successfully. "Mr Ackermann enjoys our full support," it said.

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