Germany Is Finally Holding A Government Official Accountable For Massive Wirecard Fraud
After promising to seriously scrutinize a series of suspicious stock trades involving shares of disgraced one-time fintech darling Wirecard, German lawmakers have apparently forced out Ralf Bose, the leader of APAS, Germany’s audit watchdog.
Bose was suspended, effective immediately, on Monday after admitting to Parliament that he had traded shares in Wirecard while purportedly leading a probe into the company’s auditor, EY (which is also now facing potential criminal charges in an echo of the collapse of Arthur Anderson in the US). Wirecard collapsed back in June.
For what it’s worth, Bose tried to claim he lost money on the trades, but that doesn’t explain his sudden interest in speculating on the stock, as the fact that he was trading in a stock while investigating its auditor for fraud related to the underlying business still smacks of conflict and self-dealing.
From what we can tell, Bose’s departure marks the first big firing of a senior government official related to the Wirecard case.
Germany’s Federal office of economics and export control said in a statement on Monday that the decision to order Bose to step aside while a formal investigation into the stock trades is carried out was intended to “safeguard” the agency’s “integrity”.
The regulator has taken heat from prosecutors and lawmakers as Germany tries to explain how Wirecard’s massive fraud was allowed to continue for so long while regulators like BaFin (often described as the German equivalent of the SEC) appeared at times to run interference on behalf of the company to help ward off pesky reporters trying to expose the fraud (BaFin accused the FT’s Dan McCrum of being in cahoots with short-sellers allegedly trying to manipulate the story, which led the regulator to briefly ban short-selling in Wirecard’s shares).
In loosely related news, it has emerged that BaFin, which has also been accused of dropping the ball on Wirecard, fired one junior-level employee, and investigated three others, over seemingly improper trades involving Wirecard.
As prosecutors and lawmakers’ investigations progress, we hope Rolf isn’t the only top-level government hack to face consequences for the myriad failures at various levels of government in Germany which allowed Wirecard to flourish despite numerous red flags.