With her voice constantly changing, one of the key witnesses in the investigation of the billions scandal, Wirecard, paints a chaotic picture. That of a boss who leaves the important, momentous discussions to her employees – although, as politicians repeatedly emphasize, it is about an “event of the century”. The picture of a female supervisor blindly relieving the public prosecutor of spectacular allegations, brushing the Bundesbank’s concerns aside – and being kept on a long leash by the Ministry of Finance. To this day, even in retrospect, she does not see why her actions in the Wirecard case should have been a serious mistake, says Bafin’s vice-president, Elisabeth Roegele, in the Bundestag on Friday. She will have to vacate her post in just a few weeks.
No speculation on falling prices
The members of the committee of inquiry into the Wirecard scandal can only shake their heads. “To this day, Ms. Roegele has not understood what a real error culture means,” says the Greens’ finance politician, Danyal Bayaz. “Your image of financial markets and the tasks of a financial regulator left an impression of naivety and prejudice.” His colleagues Florian Toncar (FDP) and Fabio De Masi (left) accuse Roegeles financial supervision of protecting the wrong people and misleading the market.
The focus of the allegations is a very seldom used instrument of financial supervision: the prohibition of speculation on falling prices – the CDU MP Matthias Hauer repeatedly speaks of an “event of the century”. In the spring of 2019, the Bafin issued such a ban on the short sale of Wirecard papers – and thus, from the point of view of politicians, pushed the scandalous company into the role of victim.
“Investigator behind the investigator”
The reason, says Roegele, was information from the Munich public prosecutor. This had evidence of an attack by short sellers who bet on falling prices and often specifically publish negative information about a company in order to influence the market. In addition, the public prosecutor reported evidence of crimes such as extortion. In Munich, Wirecard lawyers were believed that the company was being put under pressure from the media industry. Has the Bafin checked these allegations? “With all due respect, that is not our approach,” says Roegele. One does not pretend to be the “investigator behind the investigator of the public prosecutor’s office”.
So the Bafin imposed the ban – which has recently been interpreted many times as partisanship or a seal of approval for Wirecard. “That was and is not the objective of the Bafin, which it linked with the short sale ban,” assures the executive director. For the Bafin it is irrelevant whether the allegations of the short sellers are true. It is all about whether the market is being manipulated and investors are threatened with significant losses. But that, she says, could have been explained better.