Steinkuhler forced off Daimler board

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DEUTSCHE Bank yesterday removed Franz Steinkuhler, the disgraced former leader of Germany's engineering workers, from the supervisory board of Daimler-Benz in a damage limitation exercise over the trade unionist's controversial share dealings.

Mr Steinkuhler's behaviour 'cannot be tolerated in the interests of the firm and of Germany as a financial centre,' said the bank, which used its 28 per cent voting stake at Daimler's annual meeting to remove him - the first time it had taken such action.

MAH, Mercedes' holding company, whose shares Mr Steinkuhler bought for DM1m shortly before the announcement of a share swap deal with Daimler-Benz, joined Deutsche Bank's vote of censure. Battered by accusations of insider trading and questionable speculation, Mr Steinkuhler resigned as IG Metall leader on Tuesday.

One shareholder put forward a motion calling on Daimler to consider legal action against Mr Steinkuhler.

Deutsche Bank said that even if Mr Steinkuhler had known nothing of the impending deal, he was, in his position as a supervisory board member, in possession of other confidential information about Daimler.

'It is therefore totally unacceptable that a member of the supervisory board should deal in shares in such conditions,' Wolfram Freudenberg, spokesman for the bank, said.

Hans-Joachim Fonk, chairman of MAH, said Mr Steinkuhler had betrayed 'the trust that supervisory board members must enjoy' by dealing on the stock exchange at such a sensitive time.

Hilmar Kopper, head of Deutsche Bank and chairman of Daimler's supervisory board, failed to quell outbursts of criticism from angry shareholders. Klaus Kessler, representing Germany's main small shareholders' association, called Deutsche Bank's handling of the share-swap plan 'dilettantist and grossly negligent'.