Deutsche Bank chairman charged in damaging Kirch media group credibility

A lawsuit accusing Deutsche Bank's board chairman of damaging the Kirch media group's credibility in a TV interview can proceed, a German federal court ruled Tuesday. The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe said German media tycoon Leo Kirch, head of the bankrupt Kirch media group, could go ahead with a suit against Rolf Breuer.

Kirch accuses Breuer of undermining his media company's credit worthiness in a television interview in February 2002 by implying banks would not lend the group any more money, contributing to its eventual insolvency.

In the interview, Breuer, who was then Deutsche Bank's chief executive, told Bloomberg TV "the finance sector is not prepared, without changes, to make further ... capital available." The Kirch group filed for bankruptcy in April 2002, and Kirch said the interview had a direct effect on his ability to raise funds to keep his empire afloat.

The federal court limited the suit to damages incurred by the Kirch group's Printbeteiligungs GmbH, with which Deutsche Bank had a contractual relation. Kirch must now prove the causal link between Breuer's interview and the following insolvency.

Kirch's attorney Peter Gauweiler called the decision only a partial victory, saying his client was now limited in what damages he could seek. The court did not put a value on the lawsuit, and Gauweiler would only cite publicly discussed figures that put the subsidiary's worth between Ђ600 million and Ђ1.5 billion (US$737 million and US$1.84 billion).

Deutsche Bank attorney Peter Heckel, however, said that to suggest that Breuer's comment led to the loss of that amount was "absolutely incorrect" and said he did not expect the suit to be successful.

Last May, Frankfurt prosecutors dropped an investigation of Deutsche Bank AG regarding alleged falsification of balance sheets in connection with the bankrupt Kirch group because of a lack of evidence. It had taken up the investigation at Kirch's behest.

In 2004, the U.S. federal court for the Southern District of New York threw out Leo Kirch's attempts to sue Deutsche Bank and Breuer there, citing inconclusive evidence. That suit accused Breuer and the bank of being part of a conspiracy to destroy his company, reports the AP. N.U.