German Finance Ministry Toughens Rules In The Wake Of Wirecard


Germany has taken action to update its rules in the wake of the Wirecard AG scandal as complaints mount that regulators failed to police the insolvent payments company.

The nation’s Federal Ministry of Finance has announced a plan for significant reforms, the Financial Times reported.

The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), Germany’s financial watchdog, will be granted sovereign powers that allow the agency to intervene immediately in publicly-traded companies, according to the draft of an action plan distributed by the Finance Ministry on Friday (July 24).

“BaFin should have the right to carry out special audits of all capital market-oriented companies, including the right to access information from third parties, the ability to carry out forensic investigations and the right to inform the public about its auditing of balance sheets earlier than is currently the case,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The plan also promises to strengthen APAS, the German agency whose mission is to oversee auditing firms, by providing it with the power to impose tougher sanctions.

Under the new plan, companies would be obliged to replace their auditor every 10 years.

In addition, the Ministry said it would lobby to turn the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Union’s financial oversight body, into a “European Securities and Exchange Commission” modeled on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has more  power to demand information from listed companies.

Once heralded as a $28 billion financial technology leader, Wirecard has reported debt of nearly $4 billion after it revealed that $2.1 billion went missing from two Philippines banks.

Wirecard’s debt includes 1.75 billion euros ($2 billion) in revolving credit from 15 lenders.

Last week, ESMA signaled it planned to examine how German regulators handled oversight of Wirecard with a focus on BaFin, as well as a separate private-sector supervisor, looking into whether they enforced the reporting of financial information.

ESMA said they will conclude the inquiry by the end of October.

BaFin has faced scrutiny over its actions in the Wirecard scandal, as the regulator reportedly failed to investigate warnings about the payments firm and instead cast more scrutiny on accusers. Complaints and warnings about Wirecard’s potential fraud and money laundering activity came from investors, U.S. authorities, journalists and others in the know about the company.