Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out any state assistance for Deutsche Bank AG in the year heading into the national election in September 2017, Focus magazine reported, citing unidentified government officials.
The German leader also declined to step into the Frankfurt-based bank’s legal imbroglio with the U.S. Justice Department, which may seek as much as $14 billion in sanctions against Deutsche Bank’s mortgage-backed securities business, the magazine said. A German government spokesman declined to comment on the report Saturday. A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman also wouldn’t comment.
The prospect of a $14bn penalty from the US Department of Justice has rattled investor confidence in Deutsche. The penalty aims to settle allegations, dating back to 2005, about the way the bank selected mortgages, packaged them into bonds and sold on to investors. These bonds are known as residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS).
Can Deutsche Afford the Bill?
Deutsche Bank has been quick to describe the fine as an “opening position” from Washington. It is easy to see why. It would be one of the largest ever fines levied by the US. It could also strain the bank’s finances. For 2015, the bank reported its first annual loss since 2008 and could be heading for another loss this year regardless of the threatened justice department fine. According to Tomas Kinmonth, an analyst at Dutch bank ABN Amro, a settlement on that scale could impede Deutsche’s ability to pay coupons – or regular interest payments to investors – on a special type of bond. The bonds are known as AT1s, which are intended to shore up Deutsche in a time of crisis.
The bank, though, has made clear it has no intention of agreeing to a fine at this level and has stressed it has the resources to keep making payments on the bonds until 2017, at least. However, one analyst told Reuters that any fine topping €5bn would force it to raise fresh funds in the financial markets by tapping shareholders for cash.
Is this the end of Deutsche Bank’s regulator troubles?
The bank has set aside €5.5bn for litigation costs but does not spell out exactly what that sum is for. It is battling more than 7,000 legal cases, although the ones gaining most attention are the RMBS case and one relating to activities in Russia, where the bank is facing an investigation into so-called mirror trades, where clients bought shares in Russia and simultaneously sold similar shares abroad in foreign currency. Regulators are investigating whether or not these trades skirted international sanctions against Russia by turning Russia-held roubles into dollars held outside the country.
Could other European banks be affected?
Deutsche is the first European bank that appears to have started talks with the DoJ over RMBS
Barclays and the Swiss bank UBS are among others waiting for settlement talks to be concluded.