May 1, 2020 / 12:43 PM / 2 months ago

Deutsche Bank chairman faces fresh shareholder scrutiny

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A top shareholder advisor, Glass Lewis, has called on Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) investors to vote against ratifying the actions of the bank’s chairman, Paul Achleitner, at this month’s annual general meeting, citing “performance” concerns.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the board Paul Achleitner attends the annual shareholder meeting of Germany’s largest business bank, Deutsche Bank, in Frankfurt, Germany, May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The recommendation not to endorse his actions is a blow to one of Europe’s most prominent bankers as Germany’s largest lender tries to reverse five years of losses with a major overhaul while navigating the coronavirus outbreak.

Glass Lewis, in a report published on Friday, said that removing Achleitner was not in the bank’s best interests but that the company’s failings should be at least partially attributed to him given the numerous changes in leadership and strategy shifts that he has overseen.

“We believe that a vote against the ratification of Dr. Achleitner for the past fiscal year is warranted,” Glass Lewis said in its report to shareholders.

Deutsche Bank said in a statement that Glass Lewis’ concerns were backward looking and unrelated to the past year. “We appreciate that Glass Lewis recommends stability in the supervisory board,” Deutsche said.

At this year’s annual shareholder meeting, to be held online on May 20, Achleitner also faces for a third year in a row a vote to remove him from his post, motions that he survived by a wide margin in past years.

Investors have been frustrated with the 80% decline in Deutsche Bank’s share price over the past decade, billions of euros in losses, as well as the bank’s involvement in money laundering scandals.

The bank has said that it has made progress in addressing various compliance issues and is on the right path after a restructuring announced last year that foresees shedding 18,000 staff.

Last month, it said that the “entire supervisory board continues to have no doubts concerning Dr. Achleitner’s comprehensive personal and professional skills and integrity”.

Such votes are highly symbolic in Germany. When dissatisfaction is high, companies tend to work with investors to respond to their concerns in a well-established good corporate governance practice, according to ISS, another shareholder proxy service.

ISS, in contrast to Glass Lewis, recommended that shareholders endorse Achleitner’s actions at this year’s shareholder meeting.

Last year, Achleitner received approval from 71.63% of shareholders, down from 84.4% the previous year, in what ISS called “a significant level of dissent”. In 2017, Achleitner was elected for his second five-year term with 93.51% of the shareholder votes.

Achleitner’s current term ends in 2022. A former partner of Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and finance chief for Allianz (ALVG.DE), Achleitner is in search of a successor, people with direct knowledge of the matter have said.

Reporting by Tom Sims and Hans Seidenstuecker; Editing by Edward Taylor and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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