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German asset managers get governance code

GERMANY - A committee headed by well-known finance expert Professor Wolfgang Gerke has unveiled a new corporate governance code for asset managers active in Germany.

The main thrust of Gerke’s code, whose adoption is voluntary, is to improve investor protection. Among other things, the code recommends that the supervisory board for an asset manager include one member who has nothing to do with the manager, its shareholders or even its business partners.

The code also suggests that the manager’s supervisory board create a special committee to boost oversight of the company. And it recommends that the manager regularly inform investors about its corporate governance via the internet and in its annual report.

“This code gives investment companies the opportunity to demonstrate to the public that they can avoid conflicts of interest or, when they happen, deal with them effectively,” Gerke told journalists in Frankfurt yesterday.

He also noted that the provisions in the code were relevant for pension funds and life insurers.

The code is seen as a complement to a best practice code unveiled in October 2002 by German fund industry association BVI.

Stefan Seip, BVI’s managing director, as well as executives from German fund companies DWS, dit, Deka and Union Investment, helped draw it up.

As a result, many of the new code’s provisions were already contained in the BVI code, observed Seip, who spoke to journalists after Gerke. Regarding those provisions that are not, Seip said they could be worked in later this year.

Gerke’s code was also welcomed by the German financial services regulator BaFin. “This set of rules will improve the transparency and integrity of the German financial centre and, in turn, help strengthen its competitiveness,” commented Karl-Burkhard Caspari, vice president of BaFin.

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