A whistleblower who helped reveal false accounting at Deutsche Bank has refused an $8.25 million award from a US securities regulator because of the agency’s failure to punish bank executives, the Financial Times reported on Thursday. Eric Ben-Artzi, a former Deutsche Bank risk officer, wrote in an opinion article in the Financial Times that the $55 million US Securities and Exchange Commission penalty on which the award is based should have been paid by Deutsche’s executives. Ben-Artzi, his lawyer and a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.
“We brought all of the charges supported by the evidence and the law, which were unanimously approved by the Commission,” said Andrew Ceresney, the SEC’s enforcement division head.
Last year, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay $55 million to the SEC to settle claims that it ran afoul of US securities laws because of the bank’s “inadequate internal accounting controls” related to the valuation of complex derivatives, the SEC had said. Deutsche Bank did not admit or deny allegations connected to trading “leveraged super senior” (LSS) derivatives dating back to late 2008 and early 2009. A second whistleblower, Matthew Simpson, was awarded the other half of the $16.5 million payout.
“Deutsche did not commit this wrongdoing. Deutsche was the victim,” wrote Ben-Artzi, who had joined Deutsche in 2010.
But the Deutsche executives went unpunished because of a “revolving door” situation in which top SEC lawyers who had held senior posts at Deutsche moved “in and out of top positions at the regulator even as the investigation into malfeasance at Deutsche were ongoing,” Ben-Artzi wrote. Among the officials Ben-Artzi singled out: Robert Khuzami, a top Deutsche lawyer in the United States who served as the SEC’s enforcement head from 2009-2013. Khuzami could not be immediately reached for comment.
Ben-Artzi wants his $8.25 million share of the award to be given to “Deutsche Bank and its stakeholders.” The award money should be clawed back from bonuses paid to Deutsche executives, he wrote. Ben-Artzi’s lawyers and ex-wife are still entitled to claim a portion of his award, he wrote.