FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Wirecard <WDIG.DE> Chief Executive Markus Braun apologised to shareholders on Friday as the company announced a reshuffle of its management board and appointed a new compliance officer, days after the hedge fund TCI demanded Braun’s removal.
Wirecard faces allegations including accounting irregularities and disclosure violations, which it denies.
In a bid to assuage investors, Wirecard hired KPMG to conduct an independent audit but the accounting firm said it had insufficient information to disprove the allegations, made by the Financial Times, leading to a 26% drop in Wirecard’s share price and prompting calls from TCI to overhaul the company.
Wirecard announced the management changes as Germany’s financial market watchdog BaFin intensifies a probe into whether the company may have withheld information before KPMG published its report.
Wirecard had booked half of its worldwide revenues from three obscure third-party acquiring partners and KPMG said it had not been able to conclude whether these revenues did or did not exist for the period 2016-18.
Chris Hohn, head of $24 billion fund TCI, said in an open letter to Wirecard’s supervisory board that the audit by KPMG raised questions over management’s compliance with anti-money laundering and know-your-customer laws.
“We are of the view that the supervisory board is legally obliged to intervene,” Hohn wrote in the letter, addressed to Wirecard Chairman Thomas Eichelmann and other supervisory board members. “In our opinion, the necessary intervention is now to remove the CEO from all management duties,” Hohn said.
Commenting on Friday’s management reshuffle Eichelmann said, “The business model of Wirecard AG is sustainable and highly profitable. With the resolutions adopted, we are setting the course for a continued successful future of the company.”
Wirecard on Friday said it will hand responsibility for financial communications to Chief Financial Officer Alexander von Knoop, who will oversee investor relations, finance and accounting and controlling, as well as licensed subsidiaries such as Wirecard Bank AG.
Braun will in future focus on strategic alliances, innovation management and the further business development of the group, the company said.
Wirecard said it had appointed James Freis as its new compliance officer, effective July 1.
Freis is a former compliance officer at German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse <DB1Gn.DE> and a former Director of the United States Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Wirecard said.
Braun said: “This reorganization lays the foundation for the next growth phase of Wirecard AG, which I am extremely pleased about. I would like to apologize to all our shareholders, customers, partners and employees for the turbulence of the past weeks and months.”
(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Kirsten Donovan)