Financial supervision: Bafin executive director Béatrice Freiwald is apparently defending herself in court against the threat of being thrown out
Frankfurt The Bafin Executive Director Béatrice Freiwald, who came under pressure in the wake of the Wirecard scandal, is now apparently also fighting for her job in court. The Federal Ministry of Finance would actually like to remove the official responsible for administrative issues from her post at the authority, several people familiar with the matter told the Handelsblatt.
Freiwald, who has already been largely deprived of power internally by the new Bafin boss Mark Branson, has lodged temporary legal protection. The Berlin Administrative Court, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Bafin and Freiwald did not want to comment on this.
A formal decision by the cabinet would be required to replace an executive director of Bafin. It is unclear whether Freiwald reacted to a cabinet decision or blocked the procedure in advance with temporary legal protection. It is also unclear how the Federal Ministry of Finance will deal with Freiwald’s resistance – and how long a court case would drag on.
The lawyer, whose contract runs until the beginning of 2024, has long been considered a shaky candidate in the authority. She is accused of the Bafin’s very lax handling of employees’ private securities transactions until the Wirecard scandal. Since she was also responsible for compliance until a few months ago, she is also held responsible for ensuring that compliance with the already quite permissive requirements was also checked in a comparatively lax manner.
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and
be notified by email.
The private share transactions of Bafin employees developed into a political issue during the Wirecard investigation committee because many employees of the supervisory authority had traded shares and derivatives of the now insolvent payment service provider. The grand coalition had tightened the regulations for such private transactions in response to the scandal.
IT and personnel are now top priority
Regardless of the outcome of a possible court case, Bafin President Mark Branson, who has been in office since August, has practically disempowered Freiwald internally. After removing legal and compliance responsibilities from her in December, he also removed HR and IT responsibilities from her in April. This is shown by the Bafin organization chart, which has been in force since April 1st.
Since then, IT and human resources have been a top priority at Bafin. “The strategically important areas of responsibility for human resources and information technology were temporarily transferred to the presidential area in order to continue to press ahead with the modernization of the Bafin. Both areas require a strategic and operationally rapid implementation of the measures decided in Bafin’s modernization agenda,” the authority said in a statement.
Within the Bafin workforce, there seems to have been great dissatisfaction with HR and the IT systems. A Bafin spokeswoman confirmed that the authority had surveyed its employees in the fourth quarter of 2021. “In fact, the results of the survey have shown that those surveyed see clear potential for improvement, particularly in the areas of IT stability and professional development prospects. These topics are now being addressed in a targeted manner, ”said the spokeswoman.
However, the average satisfaction of the employees is “to be rated positively, with positive feedback on many questions, such as work content, work environment and goals of the Bafin”.
Freiwald has lost jurisdiction over three departments
After the renewed loss of competence, Freiwald is only responsible for the organization, budget and finance department, which consists of six departments. Within a few months, Freiwald has lost responsibility for three departments, which consist of 22 departments. For comparison, the other Executive Directors are all responsible for five to six departments consisting of 30 to 51 units.
More on the subject:
The new Bafin organizational chart also shows that Branson has created a completely new business area with “Strategy, Policy and Control”, in which he has bundled responsibility for strategy, communication, law and compliance, among other things. So far, Branson has been personally responsible for this.
On request, the financial supervisory authority explained that, as a first step, critical cross-departmental management, control and advisory functions as well as future topics such as innovation and sustainable finance were centralized. The fact that these tasks have now been outsourced to the new business area is a further organizational development.
It is not yet clear who will be in charge of the new division. The Bafin used a personnel consultant to look for an executive director, two people familiar with the matter told the Handelsblatt. “Since April 1, 2022, Silke Deppmeyer, department president and head of the transformation management department, has been in charge of the new business area until the appointment,” Bafin announced.
More: Harder, faster, more willing to take risks: How the new boss is turning the Bafin inside out