FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Shareholders heckled Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE) new leaders about the bank’s legal problems at a meeting on Thursday, fearing Germany’s flagship lender is becoming distracted by a flurry of scandals and investigations.
Representatives of deceased media magnate Leo Kirch forced Deutsche Bank to convene an extraordinary shareholder meeting after contesting the resolutions of the annual general meeting (AGM) in 2012 as part of a long-running legal battle.
Klaus Nieding, a lawyer representing DSW, Germany’s largest association for private investors said: “Enough is enough. Shareholder rights are being abused. A private vendetta is being carried out at the expense of all shareholders.”
Nieding urged representatives of the Kirch Group and Deutsche Bank’s leaders to resolve their dispute, which has been fought out in numerous courtrooms across Germany and the United States over the past decade.
“Stop holding us all to ransom and resolve your dispute in court, not here,” Nieding said to general applause.
For the first time ever, Deutsche Bank erected a waist-high grey perimeter fence to prevent shareholders getting too close to members of the management and supervisory board, including co-chief executives Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen.
Fitschen attempted to quell discontent at the meeting in the outskirts of Frankfurt, but was interrupted by angry investors.
“An extraordinary general meeting is something new to all of us at Deutsche Bank. Certainly we do not want to make it a habit, but circumstances forced us to take this step,” Fitschen said, amid heckling from the audience.
“Why doesn’t the other guy say anything,” a bespectacled shareholder clad in a black blazer interrupted, pointing at Anshu Jain, who calmly looked on.
Kirch’s representatives claimed that financial statements in 2011 should have been declared void and the validity of the 2012 AGM should be contested because speaking time for shareholders was restricted, the notary did not take comprehensive minutes, and the meeting was chaired by the wrong person.
A Frankfurt court in December ruled that Kirch’s representatives should have been given more time to speak at the AGM, forcing Deutsche Bank to repeat the meeting.
The fact that shareholders had been forced to attend an extraordinary meeting is a sign that Deutsche Bank is getting overwhelmed with legal problems, said Ingo Speich, a fund manager at Union investment.
“Please ensure that Deutsche Bank can return to its operating business,” Speich said to Paul Achleitner, the bank’s new chairman. “Take a look at the bank’s corporate governance, past events show there is room for improvement.”
Deutsche Bank is embroiled in a string of other disputes, including a carbon trading scandal, and is one of a dozen banks under investigation for allegedly rigging benchmark interest rates, including the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor).
Kirch had claimed ex-Deutsche Bank Chief Executive and later Chairman Rolf Breuer triggered his media group’s downfall by questioning its creditworthiness in a 2002 television interview. He sought for years to recoup about 2 billion euros (1.6 billion pounds) in damages.
In November, Munich judge Guido Kotschy said Kirch had suffered damages of between 120 million euros and 1.5 billion. A final amount in damages has yet to be determined.
Deutsche Bank said it maintained that the claims made by Kirch have no merit and Co-CEO Fitschen said there were currently no negotiations to reach a settlement.
“An end of the proceedings is not in sight,” he told shareholders.
Editing by Mark Potter