Wirecard’s attempt to move beyond accounting scandal risks falling short

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Wirecard AG’s Chief Executive Officer Markus Braun tried to put fraud allegations behind him as questions persisted after an external probe failed to resolve issues from potential criminal behavior in Singapore to unexplained transactions.

Braun said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday that the company views the issue as closed, saying: “Everything is on the table. The market has now full transparency.’’ The company has no plans to release the full report, he said.

Wirecard released a two-page summary Tuesday of findings from law firm Rajah & Tann, which determined that some Singapore employees could face criminal liability for “wrongful accounting recording.”

The law firm, which had access only to information about specific transactions, also couldn’t match certain payments with corresponding agreements, according to a summary provided by Wirecard.

A probe by Singapore authorities is ongoing and Wirecard’s bid to limit the scope of the investigation was rejected by the country’s high court this month. Meanwhile in Germany the financial regulator is looking at potential market manipulation in Wirecard shares, with the investigation not only looking at actions by short sellers but also possible disclosure violation by the payment company. Wirecard also has been drawn into a London lawsuit between former minority shareholders of an Indian business bought by the firm in 2015.

While the stock surged 26 percent on Monday, it remains about 25 percent below the level prior to the first Financial Times reports on suspicions of corruption, which the company had called “inaccurate, misleading and defamatory.” The stock was up 0.4 percent at 125.50 euros at 9:53 a.m. in Frankfurt trading.

“While yesterday’s news removes an element of uncertainty, our view is that investors may be getting ahead of themselves,” Josh Levin, an analyst with Citigroup, said in a note, reiterating his sell recommendation. “Significant uncertainties still remain.”

Braun said the issues revealed by Rajah & Tann are being addressed and were not material in nature, referring to the FT reports as “disproportionate.”

The findings “were not in any way optimized,” said Braun. “We are very committed to constantly improve best-in-class compliance and oversight instruments.”

— With assistance from Anna Edwards

Bloomberg News
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