Wirecard says probes find no evidence of criminal misconduct

Singapore police said on Feb 4 that they were looking into reports by the Financial Times of alleged financial irregularities at German payments firm Wirecard AG.
Singapore police said on Feb 4 that they were looking into reports by the Financial Times of alleged financial irregularities at German payments firm Wirecard AG.PHOTO: AFP

FRANKFURT/SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Wirecard and its law firm said on Monday (Feb 4) that they had found no conclusive evidence of criminal misconduct by any employee of the company, after the Financial Times last week alleged financial wrongdoing at its Singapore office.

The response lifted shares in the German payments firm by 15 per cent at the market open, partly reversing losses of 40 per cent last week that were triggered by the FT's allegations of forgery and falsification of accounts.

Munich-based Wirecard had initially dismissed the two FT reports last Wednesday and Friday as "inaccurate, misleading and defamatory".

It issued a more detailed response on Monday, saying that a member of its Singapore team had in April 2018 raised concerns about the alleged actions of a finance team member there.

The company then started an investigation, which found no evidence to support the allegations. "Furthermore, there were indications that the allegations could be related to personal animosity between the employees involved," the company said.

Wirecard hired Singaporean law firm Rajah & Tann for a review which is about to be completed, but which has so far not found evidence of criminal misconduct, the electronic payments company said.

Rajah & Tann, in a statement, confirmed that it had sent a letter to Wirecard on Feb 3 which stated that its inquiry was ongoing. "To date we have made no conclusive findings of criminal misconduct on the part of any officer or employee of the company," said the letter, posted on Wirecard's website.

Singaporean police on Monday said they were looking into the reports of alleged financial irregularities.

SHORT SELLERS' FAVOURITE

Wirecard, founded in 1999, has been a perennial target for speculative short sellers - market players who seek to profit from falls in a company's share price - who have questioned its accounting methods and rapid international expansion.

These speculative attacks have caused huge volatility in Wirecard's stock, though its share price has rebounded repeatedly, with the company last year entering the blue-chip DAX index.

These allegations have not, however, led to any investigations of the company by Germany's financial regulator or state prosecutors. Instead, prosecutors are investigating the short sellers on suspicion of market manipulation.

The Munich state prosecutor's office on Friday said it had found no evidence of the alleged wrongdoing reported by the FT.

Wirecard said in its statement that the allegations by the Singapore staffer related to potential compliance breaches between 2015 and 2018.

These related to revenues of 6.9 million euros (S$10.7 million) and costs of 4.1 million euros, as well as an internal transfer of intellectual property worth 2.6 million.

Markus Braun, the CEO of Wirecard and its largest shareholder with a 7 per cent stake, played down the latest allegations as a "non-story".

"We have examined everything," he told the Handelsblatt business daily in an interview.

"There is no risk. We did not have to make any corrections or adjustments to our accounts."

Wirecard reported on Jan 30 that its fourth-quarter revenues grew by 40 per cent and core earnings by 37 per cent, and confirmed its guidance for profits of 740 million-800 million euros this year.