Tuesday 20 August 2019

FT hires law firm to review probe into payments group Wirecard

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Douglas Busvine

The Financial Times (FT) has hired a law firm to review its investigations into German payments company Wirecard, which has sued the newspaper over a series of reports alleging accounting irregularities.

Editor Lionel Barber called in the London-based law firm RPC after the Handelsblatt newspaper reported at the weekend that Wirecard had given evidence to German prosecutors, alleging collusion between short-sellers and employees of the Financial Times.

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The FT, in a statement yesterday, rejected these allegations, which it said it considered a diversionary tactic aimed at stifling further reporting on Wirecard. “Given the seriousness of the allegations, I have decided to invite an external review into our reporting of this highly controversial story,” Mr Barber said. “As a trusted news source, the FT’s reputation rests on its gold-standard journalism, its integrity, and a scrupulous approach to accuracy.”

Mr Barber also gave a vote of confidence to the FT’s award-winning investigations team, headed by 30-year veteran Paul Murphy.

Earlier this year, the Munich public prosecutor launched an investigation into alleged market manipulation in Wirecard shares, which for years have been a favoured target for short-sellers, seeking to profit from declines in its share price.

Germany’s financial watchdog Bafin temporarily banned the short-selling of Wirecard stock, but the ban expired in April.

The FT’s reporting, citing a whistleblower’s claims of fraud and creative accounting at Wirecard’s Singapore office, wiped up to $10bn (€9bn) off Wirecard’s market value, and triggered a police investigation in the Asian state. Wirecard denies the allegations and has filed a suit at the Munich regional court against both the FT and its lead reporter on the stories, Dan McCrum, seeking a ruling on the merits of its case. If successful, the company would then press for financial redress.

Last week, Wirecard, which was admitted to Germany’s DAX index of 30 blue-chip stocks in 2018, announced deals with retailer Aldi and car-dealing platform AUTO1.

Meanwhile, Wirecard is to handle payments for online and travel agency bookings for Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s national airline.

Royal Air Maroc is set to join the Oneworld alliance in mid-2020, and has annual passenger figures of 7.4 million.

In addition to processing all online Visa, Mastercard and Maestro payments for Royal Air Maroc, Wirecard will handle credit card payments made via travel agency or airline agent ticket transaction settlement systems, such as ARC and IATA’s Billing and Settlement Plan. 

“We serve more than 90 destinations internationally and welcome passengers from around the globe on our flights,” said Yassine Berrada, CFO at Royal Air Maroc. “To reflect our global presence and reach, we are constantly broadening the scope of our service offerings, which includes ensuring a convenient and easy payment experience no matter how our passengers choose to book flights with us. We are delighted to be cooperating with Wirecard in the area of digital payments.” 

“The large part of air travel bookings are now paid for online and this trend is set to grow exponentially as payments become more digital. In 2018 alone, air travel booked over the internet generated a revenue of over €360m worldwide,” said Eckart Reiche, vice-president, global airline sales at Wirecard.

Reuters

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