* Prosecutors conclude investigation, seek charges
* Court must now decide whether to charge co-CEO Fitschen
* Deutsche Bank says suspicions of wrongdoing unfounded
(Adds investor comments, share price)
By Jörn Poltz and Kathrin Jones
MUNICH/FRANKFURT, Aug 12 German prosecutors are
seeking charges against Deutsche Bank co-CEO Juergen
Fitschen and several former executives at the bank in connection
with the long-running Kirch bankruptcy case, legal sources said
The decision to pursue charges, while widely expected, is a
serious blow to Fitschen and Germany's largest bank, which faces
an array of legal problems, including investigations into
possible manipulation of benchmark interest rates and foreign
Prosecutors have been investigating whether Fitschen, his
predecessors Josef Ackermann and Rolf Breuer, and others gave
misleading evidence in a civil suit, brought by heirs of the
late media magnate Leo Kirch, which ended in February after 12
years of legal wrangling.
A Munich court must now decide whether to accept the case
and press charges, a decision expected to take several months.
Deutsche Bank said it had received no written notice of the
"Deutsche Bank fundamentally does not comment on ongoing
cases and points to earlier statements that the bank is
convinced that any suspicion against Juergen Fitschen will be
shown to be unfounded," the bank said in a written statement.
Fitschen and Anshu Jain, the former head of Deutsche's
investment bank, took over as co-CEOs in 2012. The leadership
duo has been dogged by legal woes stemming from the bank's
conduct during the global financial crisis as they work to meet
strict new capital requirements from regulators.
Kirch, who died in 2011, blamed the country's largest lender
for his group's demise, setting off one of Germany's most
acrimonious corporate disputes, which was settled in a deal
costing Deutsche about 925 million euros.
But Fitschen is expected to weather the threat of charges
and the possibility of a trial.
German banking supervisor Bafin has signalled that it will
take no action against Fitschen if the court decides to press
charges, leaving Fitschen free to manage the bank and defend
himself at the same time.
Likewise, the bank's supervisory board, which oversees
management, will support Fitschen if the case comes to trial,
two sources on the supervisory board have told Reuters.
Fitschen's predecessor Ackermann ruled Germany's largest
bank while spending months in the courtroom as a defendant in
the Mannesmann case in 2006. Ackermann and other defendants
ultimately ended the case by agreeing a cash settlement with
"Mr. Fitschen does not need to resign right now. But should
it result in a conviction, that would need to be reassessed,"
said attorney Klaus Nieding, head of the German
small-shareholders association DSW.
But some shareholders were not as sanguine. Speaking under
the condition of anonymity, one major stockholder in the bank
said: "Already the fact that charges will be filed against one a
management board head is shameful and damaging to the bank."
Shares in Deutsche Bank were up 0.4 percent late on Tuesday,
roughly in line with a 0.7 percent rise in the Stoxx index of
European banks .SX&P.
Earlier this month, a German court halted a bribery trial
against Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of Formula One, in
exchange for a $100 million fee. [ID: nL6N0QB488]
These cases point to the possibility that Fitschen, too, may
eventually choose to settle any case rather than endure a
potentially long and distracting courtroom proceeding.
A senior source within the bank, however, told Reuters that
the 63-year-old Fitschen is adamant about his innocence and
would rather endure a trial than let a settlement leave a
blemish on his career.
Fitschen's personal lawyer declined to comment, as did the
lawyers representing former CEOs Ackermann and Breuer.
A spokeswoman for the court also declined to comment.
The Munich prosecutors' office said it had concluded its
investigation but declined to comment further.
"Due to legal reasons we cannot issue a statement until all
the parties have been properly informed about the process," the
prosecutor said in a statement.
(Writing by Thomas Atkins; Editing by Noah Barkin and Sophie