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FT editor: Probe finds no collusion in reporting on Wirecard

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions is seen in Aschheim near Munich, Germany April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Financial Times said on Thursday that an independent investigation of its coverage of German payments company Wirecard WDIG.DE had found no evidence that its reporters had colluded with speculators.

Editor Lionel Barber, in an email to staff, said the two-month probe by law firm RPC had found that “the evidence does not support claims of collusion between FT investigative reporters and investors trading in Wirecard”.

No comment was immediately available from Wirecard, a Munich-based fintech that was last year admitted to Germany’s DAX blue-chip share index.

Barber called in RPC after German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on July 21 that Wirecard had given evidence to German prosecutors of suspected collusion between short sellers seeking to profit from share-price falls and FT staff.

“I am satisfied that there is no foundation to support the allegations of collusion leveled against our reporters by Wirecard,” Barber wrote in the email to staff seen by Reuters. “We stand by our journalism.”

FT reporter Dan McCrum has this year published a series of investigative reports into Wirecard that, citing evidence from whistleblowers, allege financial and accounting irregularities at entities the company controls in Asia and the Middle East.

His first piece at the end of January, alleging fraud and creative accounting at Wirecard’s Singapore office, wiped up to $10 billion off the fintech’s stock market value and triggered a police investigation in the Asian city-state.

Wirecard denies the allegations and has filed a suit at the Munich regional court against both the FT and McCrum, seeking a ruling on the merits of its case. If it wins that case, Wirecard says it would seek financial redress.

The Munich public prosecutor, acting on a complaint by financial regulator Bafin, is meanwhile investigating suspected manipulation in Wirecard stock. According to sources close to the investigation, McCrum is named as a suspect.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; editing by John Stonestreet