ONE of Germany's highest profile investor rights activists has gone on the offensive against critics of Deutsche Bank and Josef Ackermann, its embattled chief executive.
Stefan Engelsberger, a Bavarian entrepreneur who rose to prominence two years ago co-ordinating Argentinean bondholders, has set up an internet-based shareholder campaign, www.prodeutschebank.de, to defend Deutsche from the onslaught on its domestic reputation.
Last month, peer groups, financial regulator BaFin and several senior politicians attacked the bank over its freezing of a poorly performing property fund. Mr Ackermann has also been attacked over the past two years for his role in approving executive bonuses while a non-executive director at telecoms group Mannesmann six years ago.
Although acquitted in 2004, Germany's federal appeals court last month ordered a Mannesmann retrial, prompting more suggestions that Mr Ackermarm could resign.
In a recent interview with German capital markets newspaper B6rsenzeitung, Mr Ackermann dismissed the attacks on his reputation and reiterated that he planned to heed the "encouragement to continue" that he had heard from "many people". There is a widespread belief in Frankfurt, nonetheless, that Mr Ackermann may resign over the coming months.
Mr Engelsberger said it was time that Germany gave up the constant carping about its biggest bank and realised Deutsche was an institution to be proud of. "Deutsche Bank has for a long time been seen as an icon of greed and 'locust-capitalism'," he said. "But like umpteen thousands of other companies, it is just trying to generate added value for its owners."
He told the Financial Times last Monday: "These politicians are plain stupid. Can't they see it's in Germany's interest to have a strong German bank with a strong World presence."
Mr Engelsberger also criticised Germany's traditional shareholder rights lobbyists -- the law-firm backed DSW and SDK small investor bodies -- for taking the side of property fund investors to the detriment of shareholders in the recent row. "It is in the interest of the DSW and SDK to generate legal action [from fund investors] out of this," he said.
Mr Engelsberger said he would write to Jochen Sanio, BaFin's president, to ask why he had made public statements about Deutsche's property fund, rather than respect norms of confidentiality.
The man who in 2004 represented the interests of hundreds of German Swiss and Austrian investors in talks with the IMF and the Argentinean government over its bond crisis said he hoped his new initiative would become an outlet for the "silent majority" of Deutsche Bank shareholders to campaign for their rights.
Under syndication arrangement with FE