Officials from the public prosecutor office in Frankfurt, the supervisory authority BaFin and the German federal criminal police have raided the offices of Deutsche Bank and DWS on suspicion of greenwashing at the asset manager.
DWS has allegedly misled investors by overstating information on sustainability criteria in investments without making tangible progress on issues such as environmental and climate protection, according to reports.
In a statement reported on tagesschau.de, the public prosecutor said that after an examination, “sufficient factual indications” emerged pointing to the fact that, contrary to the information in the sales prospectuses of DWS funds, environment, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors were only taken into account in a minority of the investments.
In a large number of investments, ESG factors “did not receive any attention”, the prosecutor added in the statement, therefore leading to the allegation of fraud in the prospectuses.
The investigations have been going on since the beginning of the year and are still aimed at unknown persons, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor office in Frankfurt said, according to the Handelsblatt newspaper.
A spokesperson for DWS said: “We have continuously cooperated fully with all relevant regulators and authorities on this matter and will continue to do so. In general, we stand fully behind our company statement from 26 August 2021.”
In last year’s statement DWS underlined its efforts to disclose ESG aspects in the investment activities in its annual reports, rejecting the allegations made by former employee and chief sustainability officer Desiree Fixler. In an article in the Wall Street Journal last year, Fixler relayed her view that DWS misrepresented its ESG capabilities.
In a statement to tagesschau.de Deutsche Bank said “the [latest] measures taken by the public prosecutor are directed against unknown persons in connection with greenwashing allegations made against DWS”.
BaFin launched an investigation into DWS following a similar move by the US authorities.