(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG’s investment arm has set aside €27 million ($30 million) to help settle allegations of greenwashing following two years of investigations that have tarnished its reputation.
DWS Group disclosed the provisions, which were labeled “other” as of June 30, according to the firm’s second-quarter results on Wednesday. The overwhelming share of those provisions serves to cover the expected settlements from several probes in the US and Germany, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The firm is in advanced resolution discussions with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, though the final outcome is yet to be concluded, DWS said in a report. Other investigations are ongoing and the results are yet to be determined, it added. None of such proceedings is currently expected to have a significant impact on its financials, it said.
DWS has been under scrutiny by various agencies including the SEC since ex-chief sustainability officer Desiree Fixler went public two years ago with claims that the asset manager had inflated its ESG credentials. The allegations and ensuing probes have sent the firm’s share price down about 27% since Aug. 25, 2021, as investors sought to assess the financial impact.
The asset manager has rejected Fixler’s claims from the outset and Chief Executive Officer Stefan Hoops has said he stands behind the disclosures targeted in the probes. He has also said that some of the firm’s past marketing claims may have been “exuberant.”
Speaking to analysts on an earnings call, Hoops said he expects an end to the probes would make it easier for DWS to engage with clients over sustainability. He also said it would free up staff resources by reducing the amount of time “competent people spend on the past versus the future.”
While a fine of below €30 million is likely to be manageable for DWS, it’s set to be the highest ever the SEC has meted over allegations of greenwashing. Bank of New York Mellon Corp.’s asset manager was the first in the industry to be sanctioned over the matter when the SEC forced it to pay $1.5 million in May 2022, followed by a fine of $4 million for Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s investment arm in November.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler has increased scrutiny of asset managers’ ESG practices and the regulator set up a task force in 2021 to examine potential violations.
The SEC’s investigation was one of several for DWS, with Germany’s watchdog BaFin, US Department of Justice, and German prosecutors all examining Fixler’s claims.
(Updates with CEO’s comment in sixth paragraph.)
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