PwC advised DWS on sustainability while investigating greenwashing claims

Deutsche Financial institution AG updates

PwC was advising DWS on sustainability similtaneously the accounting agency was investigating and dismissing whistleblower allegations of large-scale greenwashing on the asset supervisor, elevating questions over the independence of the probe.

The allegations have been made in mid-March by DWS’ former head of sustainability Desiree Fixler. Shortly after being sacked, she accused DWS of misrepresenting the way it used environmental, social and governance metrics to analyse corporations throughout its funding platform.

Fixler outlined her issues in a five-page file, seen by the Monetary Instances, she emailed to DWS chair Karl von Rohr on March 17.

After the allegations have been reported by the Wall Road Journal final month, US and German regulators launched investigations, sending the asset supervisor’s share worth sharply down.

Christian Stitching, CEO of Deutsche Financial institution, DWS’ largest shareholder, advised analysts on Friday the discussions about alleged greenwashing have been mere “noises”. He additionally highlighted the necessity to be “very cautious and really disciplined and really diligent in your [ESG] processes, in your reporting, in your measurement and in addition in deciding is it ESG conform or is it not?”

DWS denies all wrongdoing and mandated PwC to analyze the allegations days after the agency acquired the file.

In a video name on March 23, key DWS supervisory board members agreed to “take [all of Fixler’s allegations] significantly and correctly assess [them]”, in keeping with a doc seen by the FT. They tasked Martin Weirich, a consulting accomplice at PwC, with assessing the claims in a “reality discovering train” code-named ‘Gamma’.

On the identical time, a special PwC staff led by accomplice Nicole Röttmer was advising the asset supervisor on meet its aim of internet zero emissions by a minimum of 2050.

DWS paid about €300,000 for PwC’s net-zero consulting, which has been concluded, in keeping with folks with direct data of the matter. The asset supervisor was additionally in talks with PwC in early 2021 to license sustainability instruments costing about €50,000 a yr, which they finally determined in opposition to, one of many folks stated.

Throughout venture “Gamma”, the Large 4 agency interviewed seven senior DWS workers and examined emails and shows that Fixler had talked about.

Regarding essentially the most contentious subject — that the amount of belongings which have gone by way of a so-called ESG integration course of was overstated within the annual report — PwC reviewed working papers of DWS’ auditor KPMG.

PwC discovered that the ESG classification was primarily based on a proper course of, and that the numbers have been challenged by KPMG throughout the annual audit, folks aware of the probe stated. “The quantity that was reported within the annual report was smaller than within the preliminary inner one,” stated one individual.

In mid-Could, PwC stated in a 42-page report, that it “couldn’t establish substance inside the allegations”. PwC additionally dismissed Fixler’s declare that she was fired in retaliation for elevating issues internally.

Fixler advised the FT she “wish to understand how PwC managed the potential battle of curiosity between its industrial ESG engagement and the audit in the identical space” and identified that she was not contacted at any level throughout the investigation.

In an govt abstract of the investigation, PwC on Could 21 said that “no additional knowledge assortment (eg through outreach to Ms Fixler) is critical at this level”, arguing the “context and info associated to her allegations may be established in our view by accessible knowledge gadgets supplied by DWS”.

Nevertheless, Fixler stated PwC ought to have contacted her about different issues that have been in her electronic mail to the DWS chair, however not in her extra detailed file, together with what she thought of to be “lax” anti-financial crime controls.

One individual near a European monetary regulator, stated that though it was “fascinating” that PwC didn’t contact Fixler, the investigation itself had been “thorough” and had not been undermined by the agency’s advisory mandate.

Each of the 2 PwC companions declined to remark. PwC additionally declined to touch upon its completely different DWS mandates, citing consumer confidentiality however stated that “you will need to be aware that the fears you insinuate relating to our independence or conflicts of curiosity are unfounded”.

DWS stated that it “stands by its disclosures in its annual stories. DWS firmly rejects the unfounded allegations being made by a former worker.”

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