Deutsche Bank co-CEO, 2 predecessors go on trial over long-running battle with media mogul

BERLIN – Deutsche Bank co-CEO Juergen Fitschen went on trial Tuesday along with two of his predecessors, charged with attempted fraud for allegedly colluding to deceive judges in a long-running legal battle with a now-deceased media mogul.

The trial that opened in the Munich state court caps a saga that has dogged Germany’s biggest bank for over a decade. The case stems from a 2002 interview in which then-CEO Rolf Breuer suggested that banks wouldn’t lend Leo Kirch’s media group any more money. Kirch accused Breuer of contributing to his company’s subsequent bankruptcy and sued.

Prosecutors allege that Breuer made false statements in court in 2011 and that bank executives including Fitschen and co-defendants Breuer and Josef Ackermann, another former CEO, backed a written submission containing a false statement.

Fitschen himself testified in June 2011 and prosecutors say he made contradictory statements, trying both to avoid giving “demonstrably false information” and to avoid torpedoing the defence strategy.

Attempted fraud can carry a prison sentence of between six months and 10 years.

Fitschen and the other defendants have denied any wrongdoing.

“I am confident that what I have always said can be validated in court — and that is that I see no reason why these charges were filed against me,” Fitschen said on Monday.

Kirch died in July 2011. Deutsche Bank settled with Kirch’s heirs last year by agreeing to pay 775 million euros ($842 million).

Fitschen and Anshu Jain became joint chief executives of Deutsche Bank in 2012, succeeding Ackermann.

The Munich trial is scheduled to last until September, with 16 court sessions set.

It opened days after the bank agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with U.S. and British authorities over the manipulation of benchmark interest rates, an unrelated case that also has cast the company in an unflattering light.