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As Costs Add Up, Is Deutsche Bank's Litigation Trouble Finally Nearing an End?

[caption id="attachment_17384" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Courtesy photo[/caption] Since the economic collapse of 2008, Frankfurt, Germany-based Deutsche Bank has paid over $15 billion in litigation costs, the most recent on July 20 in a nearly $75 million settlement with federal regulators. The good news for Deutsche Bank is that it is finally seeing some light at the end of its long, dark tunnel of litigation costs. That's according to a preliminary financial report on its second-quarter results, to be officially released on July 25. In the latest legal setback, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said two New York-based subsidiaries, Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., engaged in improper practices involving prereleased American Depositary Receipts. Deutsche Bank, which neither admitted nor denied the findings, cooperated with the investigation. ADRs are lending transactions that allow U.S. investors to invest in foreign companies without having to purchase shares in foreign markets, and also allow foreign companies to have increased exposure to U.S. markets. In a statement to Reuters, the bank said it was pleased to put the matter behind it. The SEC said the misconduct allowed prereleased ADRs “to be used for abusive practices, including inappropriate short selling and inappropriate profiting around dividend payouts.” The SEC action was the latest in a string of legal problems and penalties for the bank this year. On June 20 it agreed to pay a $205 million civil penalty imposed by the New York Department of Financial Services for violating foreign exchange banking laws. Earlier, on June 8, Australian prosecutors criminally charged the former head of Deutsche Bank Australia with engaging in cartel conduct in an underwriting deal worth about $1.9 billion, along with other banks. And in February the bank agreed to pay $240 million to settle claims brought by investors accusing it of conspiring with other banks to manipulate the LIBOR benchmark interest rate. But the preliminary financial report released last week said the bank expects to make a “small release” from its $2.9 billion in litigation provisions as legal expenses in the first half of 2018 actually dipped. The bank’s annual report for 2017, released earlier this year, predicted 2018 legal costs would be higher than last year, but that the worst of the legal battles were behind it. The annual report said the bank has “resolved significant litigation cases—15 of the 20 cases that accounted for the major share of [its] financial risk at the start of 2016 have now been largely or fully concluded.” The bank continues in a deep reorganization effort that began in 2015, with closing of branches, continued layoffs and executive shake-ups, including in the legal department. In its third general counsel change since 2015, Florian Drinhausen took over as GC at the beginning of this year.