Wirecard Chairman Resigns After Resisting Calls For Audit

Following months of debate, Wirecard chairman Wulf Matthias, citing personal reasons, has stepped down, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday (Jan. 11).

Matthias, who has served as chair since 2008, will be succeeded by Thomas Eichelmann, a board member since 2019 and the head of its audit committee. Matthias will stay on the board until his term expires in 2021.

Eichelmann, 54, worked at Deutsche Bank and the consulting firm Roland Berger and later became the chief financial officer of the German stock exchange Deutsche Börse. He will still lead the Wirecard board audit committee.

“We consider this as a step to improve our corporate governance,” a Wirecard spokeswoman told WSJ. “Wulf has reached the age of 75. Everybody is thankful for his contribution, but now it is time to organize for a change of generation.”

Singapore police raided Wirecard in February on allegations of fraud and creative accounting.

Although the company denied any indiscretions, influential investors compelled the firm to become more transparent and better its financial reporting, sources familiar with the matter told WSJ. 

Matthias said in response that Wirecard’s existing auditor, Ernst & Young, was sufficient, but KPMG would conduct a special audit with completion anticipated by the end of the first quarter of 2020. In the meantime, Matthias has moved to placate investors distressed by any news of accounting deviations.

Wirecard experienced an upsurge in 2018 following the purchase of more than 15 companies in a few years. But news reports surfaced that Wirecard was the subject of accounting fraud allegations in Singapore and other Asian countries.

Following the firm’s hiring of Rajah & Tann to investigate, a final report indicated there were numerous issues, but no evidence of criminal activity linked to Wirecard’s German headquarters.

Wirecard joined Sprint at the CES 2020 earlier this month and announced that they were collaborating to eventually integrate Wirecard’s commerce solutions into Sprint’s Curiosity Internet of Things (IoT) platform to establish the “Internet of Payments.”

The firms will work together to define and deliver the retail experience of the future, across multiple channels, with a comprehensive, commercial strategy and delivery approach.