Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing says firm `learned our lesson’

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Christian Sewing, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Bank, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing conceded his firm should never have taken accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein as a client in 2013, but said that it has since learned its lesson.

While Epstein died in a Manhattan jail cell last year, the German bank has had to deal with the aftermath of its failure to monitor millions of dollars in suspicious payments made by the registered sex offender. New York financial regulators said earlier Tuesday that the bank agreed to pay a $150 million fine for its shortcomings.

“It was a critical mistake with it, there is no question Mr. Epstein should’ve never been onboarded, should’ve never been our client,” Sewing told CNBC’s Wilfred Frost. “This must not happen again.”

The German bank, which has been embroiled in a number of controversies since the 2008 financial crisis, has invested “a lot into compliance functions” and hired people so the bank can “actually monitor this in a proper way,” Sewing said.

“I think we learned our lesson,” Sewing said. “It’s a function of commitment to these items and I think Deutsche Bank has invested a lot into anti-financial crime and into compliance.”

Sewing, who became Deutsche Bank’s CEO in April 2018, declined to answer a question on whether senior bank officials were fired over the Epstein case.

When asked about another scandal, that of German payments processor Wirecard, Sewing said that the episode showed that the bank’s controls worked because the fintech firm wasn’t a major customer. Wirecard’s CEO resigned last month after more than $2 billion went missing from the firm’s balance sheet.

“I don’t have now all the facts,” Sewing said. “Unfortunately, sometimes fraud is happening. In case all this comes out that it was fraud, then it’s not always easy to detect.”

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