German court approves Ackermann settlement

29th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

29 November 2006, Dusseldorf (dpa) - Germany's biggest corporate crime trial ended Wednesday when a court dropped misappropriation charges against the country's leading banker, Josef Ackermann, and five co-defendants in return for a payment of 5.8 million euros (7.5 million dollars). The settlement, read out by presiding Judge Stefan Drees, ends years of litigation, arising from bonuses of 57 million euros paid to Mannesmann executives after the German telephone company was taken over by Britain's Vodafone

29 November 2006

Dusseldorf (dpa) - Germany's biggest corporate crime trial ended Wednesday when a court dropped misappropriation charges against the country's leading banker, Josef Ackermann, and five co-defendants in return for a payment of 5.8 million euros (7.5 million dollars).

The settlement, read out by presiding Judge Stefan Drees, ends years of litigation, arising from bonuses of 57 million euros paid to Mannesmann executives after the German telephone company was taken over by Britain's Vodafone in 2000.

Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, was acquitted of the charges in July 2004, but an appeals court ordered a retrial, which began in October.

The banker, who paid 3.2 million euros to the court, did not receive any Mannesmann bonus, but was a key member of the supervisory board which approved the payments.

Prosecutors and defence lawyers last week hammered out the settlement, which leaves the defendants without a criminal record and saved Ackermann from months in court and a possible jail sentence.

Among those on trial was was former Mannesmann chief executive Klaus Esser, who obtained 30 million dollars when he left after the Vodafone takeover. Esser is to pay 1.5 million euros to the court.

Ackermann said last week that he would pay "out of my own pocket" without an admission of guilt. At the start of the trial, he had told the court that his annual income was nearly 20 million euros.

After an earlier acquittal, appeal judges had ordered a retrial of the case, ruling that the huge payments appeared to be a misuse of company money.

It is common in Germany for accused persons to offer a large payment to charity in exchange for charges being quashed. The payment is regarded as a punishment, yet it saves judges' and lawyers' time and avoids the accused having to suffer a criminal record.

Ackermann had said earlier he would step down as Deutsche Bank chief if convicted of a crime.

The charges arose from Vodafone's hostile takeover in 2000 of Mannesmann, which ran one of Germany's biggest wireless services.

Prosecutors said they did not regard conditional dismissal as a "trade-off with justice" but as appropriate to the legal situation, since there was no precedent of anyone being convicted in Germany over such bonuses.

They added that Mannesmann had not been crippled by the sums, nor had any of the six defendants offended in the past.

DPA

Subject: German news

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