The public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt has started a formal investigation against Asoka Wöhrmann, the former chief executive officer of German asset manager DWS, according to a report published by Handelsblatt newspaper.

A spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s officer in Frankfurt confirmed to IPE that an investigation has started against “a person and a company” but did not disclose any names.

The investigation concerns capital investment fraud and it is not yet clear how long the investigation will last, the spokesperson added.

The proceedings against the unnamed person started in January this year, and are ongoing, according to reports, adding that the public prosecutor’s office and DWS are now locked in negotiations regarding a fine.

Last year, the offices of Deutsche Bank and DWS were searched on suspicion of greenwashing, by the public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt, the supervisory authority BaFin and the German federal criminal police.

The raid led to Wöhrmann resigning, and Stefan Hoops, previously head of the corporate bank at Deutsche Bank, to taking over as new CEO of DWS. Wöhrmann was then appointed as CEO of real assets fund manager Patrizia.

According to the public prosecutor, indications emerged that ESG factors were only taken into account in a minority of investments. DWS rejected the accusations at the time.

The asset manager then settled the case with the consumer association in Baden-Württemberg (Verbraucherzentrale Baden-Württemberg), that had filed a lawsuit before the regional court in Frankfurt against DWS for misleading investors on holdings in the DWS Invest ESG Climate Tech Fund.

Desirée Fixler, former head of sustainability at DWS, had originally accused the asset manager of overstating sustainable investments, and authorities in Germany and in the US looked into the allegations. Wöhrmann fired Fixler in spring 2021.

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