The Real Deal New York

German police raid Deutsche Bank offices, as legal woes multiply for one of NY’s biggest real estate lenders

The investigation centers on suspected money laundering related to the Panama Papers
November 29, 2018 12:15PM

Deutsche Bank’s recently appointed CEO Christopher Sewing and its headquarters in Frankfurt (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

Scrutiny surrounding Deutsche Bank, one of New York’s top real estate lenders, has just intensified.

Police in Germany raided the banking giant’s offices on Thursday in connection with suspected money laundering related to the Panama Papers.

The Deutsche Bank investigation is focused on a handful of employees suspected of helping clients set up offshore companies in tax havens, and for allowing “proceeds of crimes” transferred to Deutsche Bank accounts without reporting them to authorities, according to the Wall Street Journal. Investigators searched six offices, including the bank’s Frankfurt headquarters.

Bank officials say the company is cooperating with investigators. It’s unclear if the investigation could broaden into other aspects of the Frankfurt, Germany-based company’s business. The Panama Papers revelations in 2016 spotlighted the flow of illicit money across the globe hidden in offshore holding companies.

Deutsche Bank has played a central role in real estate development financing in the U.S. over the last several years — particularly in New York — but it’s found itself in hot water recently. U.S. and British regulators fined the bank $630 million last year for allowing wealthy Russians to launder $10 billion in cash between 2012 and 2015. This year, the bank saw its credit rating downgraded, its CEO ousted and its stock price hit a record low.

Still, the bank continues to lend out hundreds of millions of dollars to New York real estate developers. In November, it provided Macklowe Properties $750 million in construction financing for for One Wall Street’s office-to-residential conversion.

Over the past two years, the bank has originated in part or full five of the top 10 commercial loans in New York.

Next year may not get better for Deutsche.

House Democrats are expected to focus on the bank’s financing deals with President Trump when they take assume the majority in the House of Representatives. The bank is one of the Trump Organization’s biggest lenders and one of the few institutions that continued to provide him with financing for real estate deals in recent years. [WSJ] — Dennis Lynch