Stephen Vicinanza

Deutsche Bank raided in Germany, in first-ever greenwashing scandal. In a major raid on May 31, 2022, in Frankfurt Germany, fifty prosecutors, and police officers, raid the offices of Deutsche bank and its investment company DWS Group.

The reason is new and gaining a foothold in financial enforcement circles. Not huge money laundering schemes, or payments to foreign agents, this time it was greenwashing that broke the law. The first time a company has been held liable and accountable for lying about its intentions to help promote climate awareness.

Back in 2020, the Group Sustainability Officer at DWS Group was American Desiree Fixler. Her job was specifically to drive the company’s sustainability strategy. DWS is a leading asset management firm, with holdings of 800 billion Euros in assets under management.

Desiree saw this company as the home of her dream job.

In her way, she was thinking “with almost a trillion dollars to put to work, just imagine the impact we could have.”

The following year, 2021, DWS released its March annual report. In the report was a statement that claimed that DWS was a leader in ESG markets. The report further went on to say, that half of the company’s assets were being used to meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

This would mean that an overwhelming amount of money, in the 459 Billion Euros range, was being used for sustainable investments.

This staggering investment was announced publicly and the company actively boasted that ESG was at the core of all business endeavors for the company. The stock markets all over the world loved this amazing investment system, and DWS investment products grew, and DWS was showing an enormous portfolio of green options.

This all was prefaced on the company’s highly sophisticated AI-supported tracking system that could identify ESG risks.

It was a great time to be investing green, especially in DWS assets.

Only it wasn’t true.

”The reality was that we weren’t aligned, and we did not have the systems in place to produce the right type of products. Internally, folks described the system as ’shit’”, Desiree Fixler says in an hour-long interview with the Planetary Business podcast.

Desiree ran an investigation of how the system actually worked, reported the findings, and made a suggested action plan, all to the management team. This was a huge problem and she was sure they would jump right on it, immediately – only they did nothing.

On the topic in the podcast, she goes on to say ”This was all fixable, and in my team, we were just waiting for the management to give us a green light on the action plan.”

There would be no green light. In fact, what happened was, on the day before the annual report with the false ESG numbers was to be released, she was fired. An A+ rated employee on individual performance, she felt this must be related to her report. She saw this sudden firing as retaliation for speaking out.

Instead of just accepting this as the usual corporate back-stabbing, and moving on to a better position with a different organization, Desiree Fixle put together a 5-page Dossier, outlining the situation, explaining the situation as dire, and that she had been fired in retaliation and sent it to the chairman of the board.

The chairman made no contact with her, and when DWS intentionally smeared her in a global business news journal, she took matters into her own hands. She contacted the Wall Street Journal, which published an investigative piece on the story in August 2021.

In a few days time, she received a call from US authorities telling her they had opened up an investigation into DWS. They asked Desiree Fixler to become a voluntary witness. Later BaFin, the German financial supervisory authority, opened an investigation as well.

In May, 2022, the raid took place at the headquarters of DWS majority owner Deutsche Bank. Authorities publicly announced that sufficient factual evidence had emerged that ESG factors were not taken into account at all in a large number of investments.

But Desiree Fixler felt some real vindication when the 2021 DWS annual report came out, and the company’s bogus 459 billion euros in ESG investments, had dwindled down to 115 billion euros.

”They revised down their ESG assets under management by 75 percent. They also noted that they would no longer use their smart integration ESG framework. The two main things I called for, they did”, Desiree Fixler says in the podcast interview.

For more on this, see the story at We Don’t Have Time and the podcast.