On the causality of attestations on annual financial statements for the decision of investors – using the example of Wirecard

ZIP, 2021, 2470-2480 | Ver­lag­shaus Dr. Otto Schmidt, Köln | Kai-​Oliver Knops (Au­thor): In clas­sic pro­spectus li­ab­il­ity and ad­vis­ory li­ab­il­ity cases, the case law has de­veloped tools that can be used to de­term­ine whether and to what ex­tent the mis­in­form­a­tion for the de­cision to pur­chase or hold the se­cur­ity has be­come causal. In or­der not to de­prive in­vestors of their rights en masse be­cause of the of­ten con­sid­er­able dif­fi­culties in provid­ing evid­ence, it works with fig­ures of “in­form­at­ive be­ha­vior” or “cre­at­ing an in­vest­ment mood”, but at the same time al­ways tries to limit the li­ab­il­ity of those re­spons­ible for in­form­a­tion to those who are ac­tu­ally af­fected. This is to be in­vest­ig­ated with re­gard to the li­ab­il­ity for in­cor­rect cer­ti­fic­ates is­sued by the now in­solv­ent Wir­e­card AG.

I. Introduction 

The pub­licly avail­able an­nual fin­an­cial state­ments and man­age­ment re­ports of Wir­e­card AG (here­in­after only AG) for the years 2016 to 2018 were given an un­qual­i­fied audit cer­ti­fic­ate by the audit­ing com­pany (here­in­after only WP). After ir­reg­u­lar­it­ies began to ap­pear in the busi­ness press, ini­tially from 2009, but then in­creas­ingly in 2017, and the pub­lic­a­tion of the an­nual re­port for 2019 was post­poned sev­eral times, the AG com­mis­sioned an­other audit­ing com­pany to carry out a re­view. In a re­port, which was pub­lished on April 27, 2020, they found nu­mer­ous de­fi­cien­cies in the ex­am­in­a­tions by the WP. The WP it­self only in­formed the Fed­eral Fin­an­cial Su­per­vis­ory Au­thor­ity (BaFin) about this on June 16/17, 2020. After the AG was un­able to sub­mit a cer­ti­fied an­nual re­port, it was the first DAX group ever to file for bank­ruptcy on June 25, 2020, which mean­while had a mar­ket value of more than € 12 bil­lion. Since then, share­hold­ers and in­vestors have made use of the WP for pay­ment of dam­ages, primar­ily from Sec­tion 826 of the Ger­man Civil Code (BGB). It is ques­tion­able whether an as­sump­tion of cor­rect be­ha­vior can be as­sumed with re­gard to the in­cor­rect cer­ti­fic­ates of the WP, i.e. these are causal for the pur­chase de­cision or whether the in­vestors have to ex­plain in de­tail and prove that they have re­lied on the cor­rect­ness of these and there­fore the shares of the AG have ac­quired or held. (…)

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