German regulator suspects manipulation of Wirecard stock, informs prosecutors

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s markets regulator said on Tuesday it had filed a complaint alleging market manipulation in the shares of Wirecard, a payments company whose shares slumped after a Jan. 30 report in the Financial Times alleged financial wrongdoing.

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 September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

A spokeswoman for regulator Bafin said the complaint, filed to the Munich Prosecutor’s Office, concerned around a dozen people it suspects of market manipulation in a short-selling attack.

“We have filed a complaint to the Munich Prosecutor’s Office citing suspected market manipulation in the form of a short-selling attack on Wirecard AG,” Bafin said, adding it continued to investigate other potential market manipulation.

Bafin does not have the power to file charges in the case. The Munich prosecutor - which is already investigating FT reporter Dan McCrum - does. A spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor confirmed receipt of the Bafin complaint but declined further comment.

A series of reports run by the FT, citing a whistleblower’s claims of fraud and creative accounting at its Singapore office, wiped $10 billion off Wirecard’s market value and triggered a police investigation in the Asian state.

Wirecard has denied wrongdoing, however, saying a probe conducted by Singapore law firm Rajah & Tann found no material evidence of wrongdoing by its head-office staff. It has sued the newspaper.

The online edition of news weekly Der Spiegel, which first reported the news, cited Bafin sources saying the suspicion of market manipulation did not relate to whether the FT’s reporting was truthful or not.

Instead, its concerns centered on whether so-called short sellers - speculators who seek to profit from share-price declines - were tipped off about the FT’s reporting ahead of publication.

In the wake of the market turmoil, Bafin slapped a two-month ban on short sales in Wirecard that is due to expire on Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether the ban will be extended.

The FT, which has stood by its reporting, did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Michelle Martin