Asoka Woehrmann, CEO of Germany’s largest asset manager DWS has stepped down hours after police raided its offices and those of its majority owner Deutsche Bank amid allegations of greenwashing.
DWS said in a statement on Wednesday that Woehrmann, who has been at the helm since 2018, would leave his role a day after the company’s annual shareholder meeting on 9 June.
Taking his place will be Stefan Hoops, former head of the corporate bank at Deutsche Bank, who in turn will be replaced David Lynne, current head of the German bank’s corporate Asia-Pacific business.
The overhaul came within hours of a raid of DWS and Deutsche’s offices by 50 officers from the Frankfurt public prosecutor, German regulator BaFin and Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).
Law enforcement were still at the firms’ offices on Tuesday evening after a warrant from Frankfurt’s district court permitted them to search the premises as part of an ongoing investigation into potential prospectus fraud by DWS on its ESG products. It remains unclear the extent and nature of evidence authorities have confiscated.
The raid is the first time police have entered the asset manager’s offices during the investigation, which began last August after former head of sustainability Desiree Fixler claimed it had made misleading statements about aligning $900bn assets with ESG criteria in 2020.
Interestingly, DWS only reported €115bn in ESG assets in its 2021 annual report, down from €459bn of “ESG integrated” assets a year earlier and down considerably on the figure published in 2020.
“We have continuously co-operated fully with all relevant regulators and authorities on this matter and will continue to do so,” DWS said in a statement on Tuesday.
Deutsche Bank were not accused of greenwashing directly but police entered its premises as it shares IT facilities with its asset management subsidiary.
It has only been a month since Deutsche Bank’s headquarters were last raided by federal police, criminal prosecutors and BaFin regarding separate allegations undisclosed employees had potentially violated anti-money laundering laws.
DWS’s soon-to-be former chief has also had personal question marks raised about his conduct in recent months after a source told the Financial Times he had used his private email for business purposes and alleged a Deutsche client had transferred Woehrmann €160,000.
In a statement, Woehrmann said he was leaving the asset manager “to clear the way for a fresh start” and “allegations made against DWS and myself in past months have become a burden for the company, as well as for my family”.
This news adds to what has been a challenging month for the ESG movement. Within the last two weeks, HSBC Asset Management suspended its responsible investment head Stuart Kirk for making inflammatory remarks against ESG.
Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) was also recently criticised for having exposure to Russia’s largest coal company win one of its ESG ETFs.