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Merkel to Work With Fitschen as Deutsche Bank Draws Fire

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel will continue to work with Juergen Fitschen after the Deutsche Bank AG co-chief executive officer sparked criticism from lawmakers for complaints about raids on the firm to the leader of the bank’s home state, her spokesman said.

“Fitschen is head of Deutsche Bank and thus has an important position in the German financial sector,” Steffen Seibert said today at the government’s regular press conference in Berlin. “The Chancellor, the German government, will work with him wherever it is necessary.”

About 500 police and tax officials raided Deutsche Bank offices in Germany last week and are investigating Fitschen as part of a probe into tax-evasion in the carbon market. This week, lawmakers from across Germany’s political spectrum criticized his complaints, made in a phone call to the prime minister of the state of Hesse Volker Bouffier, as an attempt by the co-CEO to place himself above the law.

Fitschen subsequently apologized for giving that impression in the telephone conversation. The co-CEO wanted to discuss how the raids might affect the bank’s image outside Germany, according to a Dec. 18 interview he gave to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Fitschen said in an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt on Dec. 13 that he felt “unfairly treated” and that the prosecutor’s approach was “excessive.”

Repair Damage

Fitschen’s apology repaired the damage sparked by the telephone call, and he’s still the right banker to become president of the BdB Association of German Banks, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said, Deutsche-Presse Agentur reported today, citing an interview. BdB is a lobby group for the country’s commercial lenders.

Opposition Social Democratic Party lawmakers Carsten Kuehl and Ralf Stegner urged Fitschen to give up plans to become the group’s president, Handelsblatt reported Dec. 18.

Fitschen has said all he needs to about the complaints to Bouffier and the BdB is “very glad” he will become the lobby group’s chief in April, Michael Kemmer, general manager of the BdB, said in a Dec. 20 interview with Deutschlandradio.

“The question of who is president of the German banking association is not one that has to be decided by the German government,” Merkel spokesman Seibert said today. Fitschen and Bouffier “have said everything right and important regarding the incident after the raid at Deutsche Bank. It’s clear that in Germany the government doesn’t intervene in the work of legal authorities.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Comfort in Frankfurt at ncomfort1@bloomberg.net; Rainer Buergin in Berlin at rbuergin1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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