The prosecutors in the failed trial of former Mannesmann AG executives have lodged an appeal with Germany’s highest court, seeking to overturn the acquittals of Deutsche Bank boss Josef Ackermann and five other defendants.
Prosecution spokesperson Simone Kaempfer said the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe will be asked to rule on the legality of the Dusseldorf court’s findings last week.
Deutsche Bank’s Ackermann, along with former Mannesmann CEO Klaus Esser, plus four other board members, had been on trial facing fraud-related charges. The other accused men were Klaus Zwickel (former head of IG Metall, Germany’s largest union), Dietmar Droste (former Mannesmann personnel chief), Joachim Funk (Mannesmann’s former chairman), and Jurgen Ladberg (former works council chief).
Ackermann, Funk, Zwickel and Ladberg were charged with breach of trust, while Esser and Droste had faced charges of abetting a breach of trust.
The charges stem back to the 154bn euro ($188bn) takeover of Mannesmann in 2001 by Vodafone Group Plc. German prosecutors allege that the 57m euros ($69m) worth of executive bonuses tied to the record bid for the German company were excessive and designed to overcome opposition to the takeover.
But at the end of a seven-month trial, the presiding judge Brigitte Koppenhoefer cleared the men of the charges that they had breached trust.
Furthermore, the prosecution said it was undeterred by Judge Koppenhofer’s criticism of the prosecution’s case, based on unproven supposition and suspicion. She had also criticized the prosecution’s manipulation of the local media, and was damning of the behavior of lobbyists on both sides.
Never in 25 years have I experienced such attempts to influence justice. It ranged from telephone terror to open threats, she said
In the UK and US, where high levels of executive compensation are commonly accepted, the trial in Germany has been viewed with some degree of astonishment. In Germany however this is not the case, where there is little experience of US and UK levels of executive remuneration.
Indeed, there has been a great deal of unsavory political pressure to prosecute the executives concerned, as politicians scrambled to take advantage of public opinion, outraged after one of the cornerstones of the country’s economy was acquired by an upstart overseas mobile phone operator.
Germany’s media, especially the newspapers, rallied behind the prosecution after the acquittals. The consensus in the German press was that while the case was not legally proven under German law, the executives remained guilty, on a moral basis.
The news of the appeal only reinforces the view that the German perspective on executive compensation remains very outdated.