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Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, on Thursday took a swipe at politicians who blamed speculation for the eurozone crisis while defending the market’s view of Greece and the beleaguered euro.
“Verbal attacks on so-called speculators and political rhetoric about a ‘war’ between governments and markets are not conducive ... nor effective,” said Mr Ackermann to applause at Deutsche Bank’s annual meeting.
“Especially here in Germany ... we must make a greater effort to listen to one another and talk to each other instead of about each other.”
Mr Ackermann’s comments follow interventions by German and other European politicians who have blamed speculators for the financial turmoil in the eurozone, including a fall in the value of the euro and increasing concern about the debts of Greece, Portugal and some other “peripheral” eurozone states.
Mr Ackermann said markets were “the bearers of bad news” on Greece and the euro but this was their “intrinsic function”.
“Markets are signalling systems. They cannot be held responsible for the actions of the actors sending out these signals,” he said.
While Mr Ackermann’s comments did not mention short selling, they appeared to be partly directed at Germany’s hastily enacted measures against “naked” short selling of some eurozone government debt and some German financial stocks – including those of Deutsche Bank itself.
Germany has been widely criticised in Europe for taking a unilateral approach to restrictions on short selling, which has raised fears about Berlin’s motives in introducing the ban while doing little to address the problem.
Mr Ackermann repeated warnings that banks and financial markets should not be over-regulated, but said a more stable financial system was also in the best interests of banks themselves. “We cannot remain indifferent if a competitor takes on too much risk and jeopardises not only his own existence but also that of others.”
The annual meeting in Frankfurt was seen as a likely test of a new pay and bonuses system to be introduced by Deutsche Bank to try to reduce incentives to short-term risk-taking, in line with international agreements. Many shareholders were expected to criticise excessive pay and the bank’s reliance on risk-taking, although it has sharply cut back the amount of market bets it places with its own money – so-called proprietary trading.
Clemens Börsig, chairman, said Deutsche’s long-term bonuses would be linked to performance relative to a group of six other banks – Banco Santander, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
Mr Ackermann said the problems of the euro, state debt and sovereign risk had created “new problems to deal with” and said there was still a large degree of uncertainty about the economic outlook this year.