Wirecard creditors’ meeting: defrauded in the beer cellar

At the creditors’ meeting of the bankrupt company Wirecard, it becomes clear that there is hardly any money to be distributed. At least a large part of the jobs are to remain.

Investigation committee on the Wirecard scandal Photo: Christian Ditsch

Daniela Bergdolt stands in front of Munich’s Lowenbraukeller and says: "I couldn’t imagine that such a chaos and fraud system was behind it." The shareholder advocate regularly speaks at annual general meetings of DAX companies. Recently, she has been representing thousands of Wirecard victims. Bergdolt is managing director of the Deutsche Schutzvereinigung fur Wertpapierbesitz in Bavaria. This Wednesday, she is attending the creditors’ meeting of the former new-economy star Wirecard from Aschheim near Munich on behalf of her clientele – private, but not necessarily small, stock investors.

The huge pub cellar was chosen as the place to be able to comply with the Corona rules: Normally, 3,000 visitors drink beer and eat sausages or knuckles here. For the meeting, the number of participants was now limited to a maximum of 350 – and without any hospitality. In the end, 74 came, but they represented a total of 11,500.

Wirecard – that was that "payment services company" that had blown up globally as if out of nowhere, with ever more fantastic promises of profits and a rapidly rising share price. In 2018, the accolade came with its inclusion in the DAX, the index of the 30 largest German stock companies. Wirecard founded subsidiaries such as its own bank, operations for services or technical further development. The actual business idea was simple: to develop electronic payment systems that facilitate buying and selling on the Internet, for example.

The bubble burst when the auditors from Ernst and Young discovered – years too late, many believe – that 1.9 billion euros reported by Wirecard in the Philippines did not exist at all. That was a quarter of the entire consolidated balance sheet. At the end of April, the share price plummeted to zero, investors lost 23 billion euros, and banks and investors were left with loans of almost 1.8 billion.

96 percent of the money gone

At the creditors’ meeting of an insolvent company, the insolvency administrator presents what he has been able to sweep up. In Munich, creditors and share owners made claims of 12.5 billion euros. According to shareholder advocate Bergdolt, administrator Michael Jaffe announced that he had so far only been able to raise 500 million euros by breaking up the company and selling off parts of Wirecard. This means that only 4 percent of the claims could be met. This means that 96 percent of the money is gone as things stand. The mood at the non-public meeting, Daniela Bergdolt tells the taz, was "businesslike and somber".

Meanwhile, the Munich public prosecutor’s office is investigating Wirecard’s former management team. Former CEO Markus Braun is in custody in Augsburg. His interrogation this Thursday in Berlin is the big topic of the Bundestag investigation committee, which is to clarify what role the federal government and federal authorities played in the case. Ex-CEO Jan Marsalek appears like a character from an over-the-top spy thriller: the Austrian, who is alleged to have contacts with a Russian intelligence agency, is on the run and wanted on an international arrest warrant. He had simulated an entry to the Philippines, but in fact he is said to have traveled to Belarus and from there to Russia, according to the research network Bellingcat. He is said to have been accommodated near Moscow under the supervision of intelligence officers.

500 jobs to remain

And the employees? Wirecard once had 1,600 employees in Germany, now there are just under 600. They used to see themselves as the IT vanguard, a kind of German Apple, then despair set in. In September, they elected a works council with the support of the Verdi union. It was mainly the Verdi man Kevin Vob who initiated this. In the meantime, it has become clear that Wirecard’s main company will be sold to the Spanish bank Santander. Around 500 employees are to keep their jobs, according to the plans. "Because of this investor, the mood is now quite joyful again," says Vob. However, no Wirecard employee can be found who would like to say anything about the situation – not even a works council, not even anonymously.