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Deutsche Bank Hit With $55M SEC Fine for Misstating Financial Reports

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Deutsche Bank AG agreed Monday to pay a $55 million penalty to settle charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it filed misstated financial reports during the height of the financial crisis that failed to take into account a material risk for potential losses estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

The agency states that an SEC investigation found that Deutsche Bank overvalued a portfolio of derivatives consisting of “Leveraged Super Senior” (LSS) trades through which the bank purchased protection against credit default losses. 

“Because the trades were leveraged, the collateral posted for these positions by the sellers was only a fraction (approximately 9%) of the $98 billion total in purchased protection,” the SEC states.

“This leverage created a ‘gap risk’ that the market value of Deutsche Bank’s protection could at some point exceed the available collateral, and the sellers could decide to unwind the trade rather than post additional collateral in that scenario.”

The SEC states that Deutsche Bank was protected “only up to the collateral level and not for the full market value of its credit protection,” and that “Deutsche Bank initially took the gap risk into account in its financial statements by adjusting down the value of the LSS positions.” 

Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement announcing the penalty that at the height of the financial crisis, “Deutsche Bank’s financial statements did not reflect the significant risk in these large, complex illiquid positions. Deutsche Bank failed to make reasonable judgments when valuing its positions and lacked robust internal controls over financial reporting.”

According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding, when the credit markets started to deteriorate in 2008, Deutsche Bank steadily altered its methodologies for measuring the gap risk. Each change in methodology reduced the value assigned to the gap risk until Deutsche Bank eventually stopped adjusting for gap risk altogether.

“For financial reporting purposes, Deutsche Bank essentially measured its gap risk at $0 and improperly valued its LSS positions as though the market value of its protection was fully collateralized. According to internal calculations not for the purpose of financial reporting, Deutsche Bank estimated that it was exposed to a gap risk ranging from $1.5 billion to $3.3 billion during that time period,” the SEC states.

Deutsche Bank neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings in the order.

— Check out SEC Charges Atlanta Advisor With Defrauding Police, Firefighter Pension Plans on ThinkAdvisor.