What has long been dreaded by Deutsche Bank this week became a reality.
Jürgen Fitschen, the bank’s co-chief executive, and four former management board members including former chief executives Josef Ackermann and Rolf Breuer, will stand trial in Munich to answer criminal charges they allegedly misled a German court about their role in the 2002 bankruptcy of a big client, the Kirch media group.
The trial of the five current and former board members of Deutsche Bank will begin on April 28 and run at least three months. Mr. Fitschen, Mr. Ackermann, Mr. Breuer and the other co-defendants will have to appear in the Munich court once a week until at least August 3, according to the court’s schedule.
The roots of the conflict go back to 2002 when Mr. Breuer, then chief executive, gave a television interview in Frankfurt questioning the solvency of the Kirch Media group, a Munich-based broadcaster that collapsed four months later. The late founder of the group, Leo Kirch, and his heirs said the banker’s comments ruined the firm’s reputation, accelerating its insolvency.
The criminal trial this summer marks the culmination of the 13-year legal battle between Deutsche Bank and the heirs of Mr. Kirch, who died in 2011. Last year, the heirs to Mr. Kirch received a €925 million ($1.1 billion) settlement from Deutsche Bank, and in exchange charges against the bank in a civil suit were dropped.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Fitschen, who became the bank’s co-chief executive in June 2012, misled the court in the civil trial by failing to contradict his former bosses and other colleagues when they said they had no intention to bring about the insolvency of the Kirch group.
Sources within the bank say that Mr. Fitschen, 66, who has long maintained his innocence, is determined to remain on as co-chief executive throughout the trial and sees no reason to resign.
His contract, with that of the other co-CEO, Anshu Jain, is set to run out in March 2017.