World’s Most Dangerous Bank Is Getting Battered

October 6, 2016, 4:33 PM UTC
Deutsche Bank Headquarters And Branches Ahead Of Foreign Exchange Rigging Fine
The twin tower skyscraper headquarters of Deutsche Bank AG stand beside a park at night in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The cost for banks to settle probes into allegations traders rigged foreign-exchange benchmarks could hit as much as $41 billion, Citigroup Inc. analysts said. Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Martin Leissl — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The potential financial disaster that is Deutsche Bank got a little bit worse on Thursday, even as it got a little bit better.

On Thursday, the financial giant said it would cut another 1,000 jobs at its operations in Germany, stepping up its efforts to cut costs as it braces for a heavy U.S. fine for past misconduct.

The bank said in a statement that the fresh round of cuts, on top of 3,000 announced in June, would affect mainly its chief operating office in Frankfurt, with asset management, macroeconomic research, global markets, and corporate finance all hit, along with human resources, communications, and corporate social responsibility.

The divvying of the job cuts suggests that the bank is releasing serious fee-earners as well as those in the cost centers of its corporate infrastructure. The bank said these will be the last job cuts in Germany this year.

Shares of Deutsche Bank (DB) have come under heavy pressure on concerns that the Department of Justice is about to level a fine of $14 billion for selling toxic mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 crisis. There are concerns that the fine could force the bank to raise substantial amounts of fresh capital, perhaps even threatening its existence in its current form. Few, however, expect it to trigger a rerun of the crisis caused by Lehman Brothers. “The key point is that Deutsche is a bank with a capital rather than a solvency problem,” analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

The bank got a shot in the arm earlier Thursday after a report in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said it’s likely to avoid a heavy fine in another of the governance scandals that has dogged it in recent months—allegations that it helped clients in Russia to evade sanctions. The bank has since closed down its investment bank in Russia. Sueddeutsche reported that Bafin, the German regulator responsible, was nearing the end of its investigations and would only order it to improve its internal controls.

That issue taps into long-standing concerns about Deutsche’s overall internal processes, notably at the New York Federal Reserve which supervises its massive operations in the U.S. The Fed failed Deutsche in its annual stress tests for the second straight year in June, saying its capital planning had “broad and substantial weaknesses.”

Analysts interpreted that as a judgment chiefly on its risk management. Before the financial crisis, it was common for regulators to accept the ‘Internal Ratings-Based’ methodologies used by many large banks to estimate the risk involved in their ever-expanding and ever-more-complex balance sheets. But new regulatory standards since 2008 have cast a harsher spotlight on those practices, as regulators push back against the way banks abuse the leeway given them in order to appear safer than they really are.

In this context, Deutsche could have done without another report Thursday, by Bloomberg, alleging that it had knowingly misvalued dozens of transactions between 2008 and 2010, including one that is now central to a criminal case against Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. In a trial that started this week, former Deutsche executives are among those accused of having conspired to hide the scale of Italian bank’s losses. Bloomberg reported that an audit commissioned by Bafin found that Deutsche’s “risk management regarding the MPS/Santorini transaction as a complex structured financing transaction was materially inappropriate and ineffective,” according to Bloomberg.

Deutsche’s shares, which had traded below 10 euros as market pressure on the bank intensified last week, have since bounced to their highest level in nearly three weeks. But they remain under pressure. By late trading in Frankfurt Thursday, they were down 0.5% at 12.05 euros—barely half of that bank’s book value. The discount reflects the expectation that the bank will have to dilute current shareholders to pay off the DoJ.