Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Commercial Real Estate Risk Culture at Deutsche Bank

Zero Hedge has published a letter from a former risk manager at Deutsche Bank which speaks to the difficulties of being a risk manager in a lending institution. Some excerpts:

For more than two years, I have been working internally to improve the inadequate governance structures and lax internal controls within Deutsche Bank. I joined the firm in 2006 in one of its foreign subsidiaries, and my due diligence revealed management failures as well as inconsistencies between our internal actions and our external statements.
Beginning in late 2006, my conclusions were disseminated internally on a number of occasions, and while not always eloquently stated, my concerns were honest. Unfortunately, raising concerns internally is like trying to clap with one hand. The firm retaliated, and this raises the question: Is it possible to question management’s performance without being marginalized, even when this marginalization might be a violation of law? Two years later, our mounting losses are gaining attention, and I offer my experiences and my thoughts in the hopes of contributing to the shareholder and public policy debate…

I joined Deutsche Bank in 2006 to build an investment business within its commercial real estate lending operation, and I was generally surprised by the aggressive sales culture within our firm. While many people consider the banking sector’s problems to be caused by residential lending, I witnessed multibillion-dollar loan proposals for commercial property.
With funds provided at more than 90 percent loan-to-value, these loans were “priced to perfection” and assumed that property prices and rental rates would continue to rise. For perspective, a single billion-dollar commercial real estate loan is equivalent to 2,000 residential loans of $500,000.
In general, my colleagues are hard-working, decent people, but the system of incentives encourages people to take risks. I have seen honest, high-integrity people lose themselves in this cowboy culture, because more risk-taking generally means better pay. Bizarrely, this risk comes with virtually no liability, and this system of O.P.M. (Other People’s Money) insures that the firm absorbs any losses from bad trades…

There’s much more at this follow up Zero Hedge post.

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