HSH Nordbank Counsel Denies Allegations Ex-Manager in New York Was Framed

HSH Nordbank AG General Counsel Wolfgang Goessmann rejected allegations he may have helped frame the former head of the bank’s New York branch.

A report in German magazine Der Spiegel that Goessmann may have helped gather fabricated evidence to have a reason to fire the manager identified by the publication as Roland K. is wrong, Goessmann’s lawyers Gernot Lehr and Christian Mensching said in an e-mailed statement today. K.’s office was searched in September 2009 by people at the bank only after the man was fired and no evidence was planted, they said.

“The course of events -- the material being found after the dismissal -- already shows that the allegation K. was framed to find a reason to fire him is baseless,” the lawyers said. “There was and is no relation between K.’s termination and the material found after the termination.”

HSH Nordbank Chief Executive Officer Dirk Jens Nonnenmacher and Goessmann are being investigated by New York prosecutors over the issue, Der Spiegel reported, citing a report by law firm WilmerHale that was commissioned by the bank’s supervisory board. It’s the second time this month managers at the German state-controlled lender have been linked in media reports to illicit activities against other people at the lender.

Der Spiegel reported earlier this month that the bank asked a security company to investigate former Chief Operating Officer Frank Roth. Nonnenmacher said Aug. 27 he never approved or tolerated spying at the bank.

HSH Nordbank’s supervisory board said on Aug. 26 that the WilmerHale report concluded that Nonnenmacher hadn’t violated any duty in connection with the matter. His secretary Sabine Grigo-Luetje said the CEO didn’t have further comments on the matter when contacted today.

HSH Nordbank was at the time investigating the handling of expenses at the New York branch at the bank, Goessmann’s lawyers said. That probe didn’t target K. specifically, they said.

Investigation

While Goessmann is aware that a New York district attorney has opened an investigation, the general counsel doesn’t know the nature of the probe and doesn’t think he’s a suspect in it, said Lehr and Mensching.

Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

HSH Nordbank is “systematically” examining the allegations, the bank’s press office said in an e-mailed statement today. The fact that suspicions are being spread before they have been fully investigated indicates that someone is trying to damage the bank, the lender said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karin Matussek in Berlin at kmatussek@bloomberg.net

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