WestLB shareholders to discuss Saunders' fate

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The Independent Online

Shareholders at the German banking giant WestLB are meeting today to discuss the fate of Robin Saunders, the controversial head of its private equity arm, and to consider whether the division should be sold.

The meeting comes amid a new flurry of speculation at the weekend that Ms Saunders could be sacked over the disastrous investment in Boxclever, a struggling TV rentals firm, by her principal finance unit. It was also reported by one German newspaper that management was likely to make a firm decision to sell the unit today. Both reports were played down by sources at the bank.

Today's shareholder meeting, involving representatives from the German savings banks and the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, is expected to be an emotional affair and there will certainly be calls for heads to roll over the affair.

Juergen Sengera, WestLB's chief executive, is also under pressure after furious criticism from members of the bank's supervisory board, representing workers and shareholders. An investigation by BaFin, the German financial regulator, has condemned the bank's risk controls.

Ms Saunders has not been informed of the contents of the BaFin report, but is readying a combative response if she is dismissed. Her spokesman said yesterday: "The idea of making her a scapegoat won't fly. It would all end up in the courts. Too many other people above her are implicated. This idea that has been put about that she was some sort of rogue trader running around London with a sack of Deutsche marks isn't true."

Ms Saunders is readying the finance to back a buy-out of the principal finance unit.