German authorities raided the Frankfurt offices of Deutsche Bank and its investment arm DWS today, deepening the greenwashing concerns that have surrounded the company for the past several months.
According to statements from the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office, the search had been triggered by media reports that DWS overstated the green or sustainability-related aspects of financial products, and following examination of evidence leading to suspicion of “prospectus fraud.”
The new actions follow reports of investigations last year by the US’ SEC and Germany’s federal financial supervisory authority BaFin after claims that the trillion dollar asset manager has misled investors on its use of ESG considerations in its investment practices and its ESG investing capabilities. In August 2021, DWS’ former sustainability chief Desiree Fixler, alleged that the firm misrepresented in its annual report on the extent to which assets were invested using ESG integration in the investment process.
Fixler was hired by DWS in 2020 and appointed Group Sustainability Officer, a new role the asset manager created to ensure that it had a holistic ESG strategy that is consistent across regions, and aligned with the group’s responsibilities both as a fiduciary and as a corporate. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Fixler was fired in March, immediately prior to the release of DWS’ annual report.
Regulators have been zeroing in on greenwashing concerns recently, as investor interest in ESG investing continues to grow, and investment firms and advisers scramble to meet the flow of investment capital in the green investing sector. Last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published new proposed disclosure rules for funds and advisers that claim to integrate ESG factors into their investment products, aiming to provide clearer and more consistent information for investors, and to address the risk of greenwashing. EU markets regulator the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has also identified greenwashing as a priority area under its recently released Sustainable Finance Roadmap.
Deutsche Bank and DWS have not yet responded to a request by ESG Today for a statement on today’s events.