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The issue with Deutsche Bank

Is Deutsche Bank a scrambled egg of banking?

I’ve talked about Deutsche Bank for some years. Originally with respect but, increasingly, with disdain. Most recently, I’ve used them as an illustration of a struggling bank, worth far less than an innovative start-up like Stripe. The most recent valuation of Deutsche Bank is that it is worth around $21 billion; Stripe is worth $36billion, based upon their last valuation round.

Now run by Christian Sewing who took over from John Cryan (July 2015 – April 2018), who succeeeded Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen (2012-2015), who took over from long-term leader Josef Ackermann (CEO, 2002-2012) … you can always spot a bank in crisis when their leader changes regularly.

Ackermann probably oversaw the period where the bank created all of the issues it deals with today: technology that is not fit for purpose, global growth that failed, a structure that is unsustainable, an inability to compete with the big US banks … oh, and a bank that put profit before morals.

Now, I need to be careful how I say this, but the bank stirred up a bit of a hornets nest last week by saying that home workers should pay a 5% tax for working at home.

A research team at Deutsche Bank proposed that people pay a 5% tax for the “privilege” of working from home, if they continue to do so after the pandemic, as this could subsidize income lost by lower-earners due to the coronavirus crisis.

Lovely idea, but not very popular and led to the twitterati investigating the background of Deutsche Bank. The result is that it unveiled a lot of stuff I didn’t know.

I did know that Deutsche Bank is the bank that bank-rolled Donald Trump.  As reported in The New York Times, “Over the course of two decades, the bank lent him more than $2 billion — so much that by the time he was elected, ­Deutsche Bank was by far his biggest creditor” (he still owes them $340 million).

But I didn’t know that they helped ISIS move $2 trillion around the world between 1999-2017 [admittedly alongside JP Morgan, Bank of New York Mellon, HSBC and Standard Chartered].

In December 2017, BuzzFeed News reported on SARs showing that Deutsche Bank had been engaged in business with a corrupt Cyprus bank named FBME that “served as a major conduit to terrorism, organized crime, and chemical weapons.”

And I didn’t know that they were the bank behind pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. According to a 2019 report by the New York State Department of Financial Services, “the relationship between Deutsche Bank and Mr. Epstein officially began on August 19, 2013” and eventually involved his opening and funding “more than 40 accounts at the Bank”.

Or the bank that built Auschwitz.

Historians combing through Deutsche Bank AG archives have found evidence that the biggest German bank helped finance construction of the Auschwitz death camp, the chief historian of the bank said.

You can find out a lot more about Deutsche Bank’s murky history in a book called Dark Towers by David Enrich, the Finance Editor of the New York Times, but it just goes to show that if you ask for people to be taxed more, it is not very popular.

Meantime, if you wonder how Germany’s biggest bank is at the heart of so much scandal, they’re not alone.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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