German court looks again at Mannesmann case
20 October 2005, KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Germany's high court began hearings Thursday of an appeal by federal prosecutors against last year's acquittal of Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann.
20 October 2005
KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Germany's high court began hearings Thursday of an appeal by federal prosecutors against last year's acquittal of Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann.
The court said Thursday it would be scrutinizing whether bonuses paid to business executives when they leave a company were legal under German law. Ackermann became involved because he was one of the outside directors of former German phone company Mannesmann.
Ackermann and other board members were acquitted last year of misappropriation when they authorized bonuses for top executives who lost jobs during phone multinational Vodafone's 2000 takeover of Mannesmann.
Ackermann, who is Germany's most senior banker, was not present as the high court in Karlsruhe heard oral argument. Presiding Judge Klaus Tolksdorf said the key issue was whether bonuses after work was completed were legal in Germany.
Tolksdorf said it would be wrong if the threat of criminal charges were to hem in the willingness to take business risks, but acts that clearly led to the loss of a company's assets were not permitted under civil law.
The judge made plain that the court would not refer the case to Germany's constitutional court, saying the bench saw no constitutional issues, since the criminal code was clear enough.
Ackermann was not accused of himself obtaining a benefit. But prosecutors allege that as a member of the Mannesmann supervisory board, he should not have voted for bonuses to top employees.
A federal prosecutor told the court that the defendants had depleted Mannesmann assets by paying millions of euros in bonuses.
No evidence will be presented in the high court, as judges will only hear oral arguments by the prosecutors and the respondents' nine lawyers. A verdict is not expected for several weeks.
Six defendants walked free on July 22 last year in Düsseldorf after the most high-profile criminal trial in modern Germany business history. Vodafone bought Mannesmann because of its mobile-phone network, Germany's biggest, and has rebranded it as a Vodafone one.
Klaus Esser, the former Mannesmann chief executive who received the biggest bonus and has waged a long battle to clear his name, said outside the court Thursday that the issue was of huge importance.
Subject: German news