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German regulators were 'deficient' in supervising Wirecard, says EU watchdog

LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - German regulators were “deficient” in how they supervised payments company Wirecard and were at risk of being overly influenced by the Finance Ministry, the European Union’s markets watchdog said on Tuesday.

Wirecard’s former Chief Executive Markus Braun and other executives have been held on suspicion of running a criminal racket that defrauded creditors of 3.2 billion euros ($3.73 billion) in Germany’s biggest post-war corporate fraud.

Those accused, including Braun, deny any wrongdoing.

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) began a fast-track review in July into how Germany’s markets regulator BaFin and the country’s accounting watchdog the Financial Reporting Enforcement Panel (FREP) enforced EU transparency rules governing company information for markets and investors.

ESMA said in its 190-page review that it found a number of deficiencies, inefficiencies and legal and procedural impediments relating to BaFin’s independence from issuers and the Finance Ministry.

“For BaFin ... there is a heightened risk of influence by the Ministry of Finance given the frequency and detail of reporting to the MoF in the Wirecard case, in some cases before actions were taken,” the ESMA report said.

ESMA was asked by the European Commission to undertake the review, whose findings the EU executive will use to determine if there is a need for more centralised EU supervision of markets to stop such scandals from happening again.

“The Wirecard case has once again highlighted that high-quality financial reporting is essential for maintaining investor trust in capital markets, and the need to have consistent and effective enforcement of that reporting across the European Union,” ESMA Chair Steven Maijoor said in a statement.

$1 = 0.8571 euros Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Edmund Blair

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