Deutsche fires two for industrial espionage

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FRANKFURT - Deutsche Bank has sacked two executives in the wake of an internal investigation into whether Germany's largest bank conducted surveillance on another board member and others.

Regulators, lawyers and the state's Data Protection Authority have now launched their own investigations into whether the bank or its representatives could have broken civil regulations or criminal laws.

Rafael Schenz, the bank's head of German corporate security, was first suspended and has now been dismissed over allegations private detectives he hired to conduct spying on behalf of the bank breached privacy laws.

Wolfram Schmitt, the firm's head of investor relations, was also suspended and is now sacked, reportedly for disclosing confidential shareholder information to the sleuths hired by Schenz.

Allegations of corporate spying are especially controversial in Germany, which has strict privacy laws and is still recovering from East Germany's Cold War legacy of spying and informing on citizens.

The alleged targets of the bank's surveillance included Gerald Hermann, a former member of the bank's supervisory board, who was suspected by the bank of leaking sensitive information.

Michael Bohndorf, an outspoken shareholder who had been critical of the bank's senior management, was also allegedly a target, as was Hermann-Josef Lamberti, the bank's chief operating officer, and German media baron Leo Kirch, who has alleged that remarks by a Deutsche executive led to the failure of one of his companies.

The two dismissals are the result of a probe conducted by law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on behalf of Deutsche, which began with incidents disclosed in May stemming from events within the bank's corporate security department between 2001 and 2007.

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