German police on Tuesday raided Deutsche Bank headquarters and the offices of asset manager DWS—which is 80% owned by Deutsche Bank—as part of an investigation into whether the firms have presented investments and products as more climate-friendly than they really are, a notorious practice known as “greenwashing.”
The Frankfurt public prosecutors’ office said in a statement that the raid—which reportedly involved around 50 law enforcement officials—was “triggered by reports in the international and national media that the asset manager DWS, when marketing so-called ‘green financial products,’ had sold these financial products as ‘greener’ or ‘more sustainable’ than they actually were.”
“Investing in fossil fuels is a dead end. No amount of greenwashing or spin can change that.”
“After examination, sufficient factual evidence has emerged that, contrary to the statements made in the sales prospectuses of DWS funds, [environmental, social, and governance factors] were not taken into account at all in a large number of investments,” the statement continued.
DWS said in response to the raid that it is cooperating with authorities and regulators.
While Deutsche Bank and DWS have both committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, both have been accused of misleading clients about the sustainability of their business practices.
Last year, Desiree Fixler—a former environmental, social, and governance (ESG) officer with DWS—accused the asset management firm of greenwashing in its 2020 annual report, prompting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the German regulator BaFin to investigate.
“This incident with DWS has rippled through the market and is a wake-up call to approach ESG more accurately and scientifically and dial down the propaganda and rhetoric,” Fixler told Financial News in September.
Fixler went further in an interview with the Financial Times last month, saying, “ESG today is meaningless.”
According to a recent study led by Oil Change International, Deutsche Bank provided $85.95 billion in financing for the fossil fuel industry between 2016 and 2021.
“We still see funding for coal and fossil fuels from some of the biggest names in finance, hedge funds, and private equity,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said over the weekend. “Investing in fossil fuels is a dead end—economically and environmentally. No amount of greenwashing or spin can change that.”
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