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Deutsche Bank’s DWS to Keep ESG Focus After Greenwash Claims

A police vehicle arrives at the headquarters of DWS Group, the asset management unit of Deutsche Bank AG, during a police raid in Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Deutsche Bank and its asset management unit had their Frankfurt offices raided by police, adding to legal headaches facing Germany's largest lender.

Deutsche Bank AG’s investment unit will keep its focus on sustainability after facing claims of greenwashing that contributed to the resignation of the chief executive officer, according to DWS Group Supervisory Board Chairman Karl von Rohr.

The German lender backs “unconditionally the strategy and financial targets” of DWS, von Rohr, who’s also a deputy Deutsche Bank CEO, said in prepared remarks for the asset manager’s annual general meeting on Thursday. “We’re also keeping the focus on environmental, social and governance issues known as ESG.”

The chairman’s comments come just days after DWS CEO Asoka Woehrmann resigned in the immediate aftermath of a police raid on the firm’s Frankfurt headquarters over claims that it overstated its ESG capabilities to investors. The event has been seen by some observers as a turning point for an asset management industry which is now facing the risk of strong action by regulators and law enforcement over greenwashing.

Read More: DWS Sends ‘Shock Waves’ Through ESG Fund Management Industry

For DWS, the probe by German prosecutors leading to the raid means the firm’s next CEO, Stefan Hoops, will continue to face regulatory and investor headwinds as he sets out to clean house. Several shareholders have tabled motions asking the AGM to withhold approval for DWS’s leadership while another one has announced he’s seeking to get the event postponed altogether.

DWS has always denied the greenwashing allegations, which were first made by former Chief Sustainability Officer Desiree Fixler. An “independent assessment” commissioned by the firm found “no evidence” to support them, von Rohr repeated in his remarks published Tuesday.

“Sustainability is too important an issue to make it OK for us that some individuals exploit it for personal gain,” outgoing CEO Woehrmann said in his AGM speech, according to prepared remarks also published Tuesday. “The continuing inflows into ESG products not only highlight the trust of our clients but also the quality of our ESG offering.”

He repeated that DWS continues to stand by its public ESG disclosures. Woehrmann is set to step down once the AGM ends on Thursday.

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