July 21, 2009

Deutsche Bank fires two in privacy breach

Germany's Deutsche Bank AG fired two executives as prosecutors probed alleged bank spying on board members and a shareholder, sources aware of the matter said.

The fired executives are Wolfram Schmitt, head of investor relations, and Rafael Schenz, the company's head of German corporate security, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported Tuesday.

The bank, Germany's largest lender, ordered an internal review of possible violations of privacy laws in May, after several incidents came to light, the reports said.

The investigation, conducted by law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, focused on four incidents, from 2001 to 2007, in which the bank contracted with outside firms to monitor people affiliated with the firm, the newspapers said.

Among the alleged targets were Gerald Herrmann, a former member of the bank's supervisory board suspected by the bank of leaking information; Michael Bohndorf, an activist shareholder critical of the bank; German media mogul Leo Kirch; and Hermann-Josef Lamberti, Deutsche Bank's chief operating officer, the Journal said.

The dismissals, first reported by German magazine Der Spiegel, came as state prosecutors opened a preliminary probe into whether the bank or its senior officials violated civil and criminal laws that protect individual privacy by spying, the newspapers said.

Germany's financial regulators and the state's Data Protection Authority are also examining the incidents.