Bloomberg News

Ex-HSH Nordbank Executives Indicted Over Omega 55 Investment

January 03, 2012

(Updates with comment from lawyers starting in eighth paragraph.)

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Six former HSH Nordbank AG executives were charged with breach of trust and accounting crimes over their role in collateralized-debt obligations that led to writedowns of 500 million euros ($647 million) in 2008.

Prosecutors have been investigating the so-called Omega 55 transaction since 2009. Among the six now charged are former Chief Executive Officers Dirk Jens Nonnenmacher and Hans Berger and ex-management board members Bernhard Visker and Jochen Friedrich, Hamburg prosecutors’ spokesman Peter Bunners said in an interview today.

“We will release more details of the allegations later this week once we have confirmation that all accused have received the indictment,” Bunners said.

Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, which control more than 80 percent of HSH Nordbank, were forced to bail out the lender in 2009. The states provided the bank, based in Hamburg and Kiel, with 3 billion euros in capital and 10 billion euros in guarantees to cover potential losses. The lender also tapped the federal government’s Soffin bank-rescue fund for 17 billion euros in guarantees.

Nonnenmacher didn’t commit any crimes in relation to the Omega 55 transaction, his attorney, Heinz Wagner, said in a phone interview. Nonnenmacher signed the deal after the responsible people at the bank had cleared it, said Wagner. As soon as Nonnenmacher learned that something may have been wrong, he ordered an internal investigation, Wagner said.

‘Division of Labor’

“A bank of this size cannot be managed without some division of labor,” said Wagner. For a loan “of the size in question here, his signature wasn’t even required by banking laws.”

Berger’s attorney Otmar Kury didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

A report by a special police unit probing the allegations in 2010 found the executives did nothing wrong, Visker’s lawyer, Gaby Muenchhalffen, said in an e-mail statement. Their report was disregarded by prosecutors, she said. The Omega 55 deal was a normal transaction and her client complied with rules and regulations, she said.

Friedrich’s attorney, Wolfgang Prinzenberg, said his client didn’t act contrary to HSH’S interest or his duties at any stage. Friedrich was responsible for capital markets at the lender at the time of the alleged violations.

HSH Nordbank has always underlined that a full investigation of the issue is its own interests, bank spokesman Rune Hoffmann said in an e-mailed statement.

--Editors: Peter Chapman, Heather Smith

To contact the reporter on this story: Karin Matussek in Berlin at kmatussek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@Bloomberg.net.


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