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Reporter meets one of 'Germany's dumbest bankers'

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Reporter meets one of 'Germany's dumbest bankers'
Photo: DPA
15:44 CEST+02:00
With Germans wondering how employees at the KfW bank came to sink over €300 million ($500 million) into Lehman Brothers just hours before the Wall Street firm collapsed, one paper has gone straight to the source.

In its Sunday edition, the Bild describes how one of its reporters attempted to interview Rainer Hartje, one of the three KfW employees the paper has dubbed “Germany's dumbest bankers.”

Hartje, a risk controller at the bank, has been suspended along with two colleagues from the bank's management board, Detlef Leinberger and Peter Fleischer. The three men have been deemed responsible for the blunder last Monday which saw €317 million transferred to Lehman Brothers after it was clear that the US firm was filing for bankruptcy.

Bild said it wanted to find out how someone feels when they've made such a sizeable blunder. On the first attempt to speak with Hartje, the paper's reporter only succeeded in getting a door slammed in his face.

But the paper wrote that on the second attempt, Hartje apologized for having been so unfriendly.

“You have to understand, though, that given the current situation, I can't tell you anything,” he reportedly said.

When asked how he was doing, he could only shrug his shoulders. Asked if he felt like a pawn, the risk controller gave a small smile and repeated his statement that he couldn't comment, the paper said.

In July, KfW and Lehman Brothers agreed on a “swap” transaction to protect themselves from exchange rate risks, Bild reported. It was agreed that on September 15, KfW would transfer €317 million to the US bank in exchange for dollars. By September 12, it was clear that Lehman Brothers was in serious trouble and KfW decided to stop any more transfers.

But on Monday, September 15, the transaction went ahead as planned and it seems unlikely that KfW will be able to recoup its losses. The currency swap is now under investigation.

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