It is one of the biggest mud fights that the German economy has recently experienced: the greenwashing allegations of its short-term sustainability boss Desiree Fixler not only ruined the share price of the investment company DWS, but also brought investigations from various supervisory authorities up to the American Department of Justice and at least the reputation battered in parts of the public.

The Frankfurt labor court now had to decide on Monday whether DWS Fixler had legally terminated in spring 2021 or not.

Tim Kanning

Editor in Business.

  • Follow I follow

The main issue was whether DWS threw Fixler out with the letter of termination dated March 9th during her probationary period or only afterwards.

The lawyers of the former head of sustainability argued that she had already worked for the subsidiary of Deutsche Bank on August 8, 2020, which means that the crucial six-month period had already expired.

However, the contract formally only ran from September 1st, so that DWS saw the termination within the probationary period.

The lawyer for the fund company also pointed out that the company had offered Fixler to terminate the employment relationship in exchange for a severance payment of 100,000 euros.

However, she refused and instead demanded more than an annual salary of 640,000 euros as severance pay.

"I'm shocked"

Labor judge Ilka Heinemeyer followed DWS' argument that the dismissal took place within the probationary period and therefore dismissed Fixler's lawsuit on Monday.

A spokesman for the fund company welcomed this decision, but did not want to comment further.

Fixler, who appeared with her lawyer at the trial, was disappointed afterwards: "I'm shocked that a case like this was dealt with in a twenty-minute hearing," she said, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

"The judges didn't even discuss any of the sustainability issues."

In fact, in addition to the question of the right deadline, there was also the question of whether Fixler was fired because she was too critical of the fund company's sustainability portfolio. The court did not comment on this on Monday.

Precisely because of this criticism, however, the Fixler case has been making waves for months and has not only gotten into trouble the CEO of DWS, Asoka Wöhrmann, but also Karl von Rohr, the deputy head of the parent company Deutsche Bank, who heads the supervisory board of DWS.

Because after her termination, Fixler accused DWS via various media of presenting itself and its funds to the outside world as much more sustainable than they actually are.

Ironically, she questioned the credibility of the largest German fund company in the number 1 trend topic on the financial markets - the stronger focus on aspects of environmental and social compatibility as well as good corporate governance (ESG).

DWS quickly and decisively rejected the allegations.

Several authorities are investigating

But the American stock exchange supervisory authority SEC and the German BaFin are now investigating the truth of Fixler's allegations.

And the US Department of Justice is examining to what extent the bank should have informed the authority of Fixler's allegations.

Shortly after her resignation, she summarized her allegations in an email to von Rohr and the bank's head of press and sustainability, Jörg Eigendorf.

The allegations have apparently not harmed the business of DWS so far.

Just a few days ago, the fund company had to inform the stock markets in an ad hoc report that it had earned significantly more money in the final quarter of 2021 than analysts had expected due to high transaction and performance fees.