Defending Executives Deutsche Bank’s Blusterer

When high-profile German business executives get in a jam, many turn to criminal defense lawyer Hanns Feigen for help. He is currently defending Jürgen Fitschen, the co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank.
Jürgen Fitschen, the Deutsche Bank co-chief executive, right, is relying on his lawyer, Hanns Feigen, middle.

Lawyer Hanns Feigen, who is almost as prominent as some of his legal clients, was in the last row of courtroom B 273 at the Munich regional court during the five-hour reading of the criminal indictment last week.

Jürgen Fitschen and four other former Deutsche Bank executives are accused of conspiring to give false testimony in a years-long civil lawsuit over the demise of client Leo Kirch's media company and its subsidiaries.

When Mr. Feigen finally had his say, he rejected the prosecutor's charges as an "annoyance." He also described the opposition's discussions of detailed issues as "trivial and completely irrelevant."

The gentlemen want to put this nonsense behind them. Hanns Feigen, Lawyer, speaking during the Kirch trial

The 66-year criminal defense lawyer is accustomed to working with celebrities of the business world. He has represented former Deutsche Post chief executive, Klaus Zumwinkel, top executives of bank Sal. Oppenheim, the former CEO of chip maker Infineon, Ulrich Schumacher, former members of the boards of banks WestLB and IKB – and Germany's most famous tax evader, Uli Hoeness.

Now Mr. Fitschen is one of his top clients. The banker and four other defendants, including former Deutsche Bank CEOs Josef Ackermann and Rolf E. Breuer, stand accused of attempted collusion. Their alleged objective was to fend off compensation claims made against the bank by the family of the late media entrepreneur Leo Kirch.

Mr. Kirch had held Deutsche Bank responsible for the bankruptcy of his media empire in 2002. The resulting litigation has dragged on for 10 years, which is also the maximum prison sentence Mr. Fitschen and the other defendants face.

Speaking in court last Tuesday, Mr. Feigen said his client shouldn't even be on trial. In Mr. Feigen’s view, "serious doubts" exist about the prosecution's objectivity in the case. The defense lawyer isn’t interested in lengthy discussions and a slow-moving trial. "The gentlemen want to put this nonsense behind them," he said.


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Mr. Feigen is a self-confident, stocky native of the industrial Ruhr region in western Germany. In the courtroom, he likes playing the role of attacker. He is not a man of lengthy legal briefs, nor is he fond of too much theory. Mr. Feigen prefers to play the blusterer.

An attorney since 1983, he founded the law firm Feigen Graf in Frankfurt in 2000, later adding a second office in Cologne. Feigen Graf has been among the top firms for commercial and tax law for years.

Mr. Feigen takes the bull by the horns. He is adept at interacting with top business executives who are accustomed to setting the tone and unwilling to be put in their places. But none of that intimidates Mr. Feigen, who has been known to slam his fist on the table during a trial.

"Mr. Hoeness, stop telling us that cock-and-bull story!" he snapped at the stunned president of the Bayern Munich soccer team in the courtroom, trying to prevent him from continuing to lie. But Mr. Feigen’s approach ultimately failed. Mr. Hoeness was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison last year.

Mr. Feigen is tight-lipped about his personal life. It is known, however, that he is in a relationship with criminal attorney Barbara Livonius, who also owns a law firm in Frankfurt and is part of Mr. Feigen's team representing Mr. Fitschen in court.

It is also known that Mr. Feigen is a fan of powerful cars. When he turned 50, his family gave him an Aston Martin. For his work, he likes to be driven around in the extended Mercedes S-Class car.

Mr. Feigen probably hasn't made any vacation plans for this summer, given that the next few months are fully booked with court appearances. Another 15 days of hearings are scheduled between now and September in the trial of Mr. Fitschen and his co-defendants.

The next major criminal trial in Germany involving a top business executive is set to begin in late July. Former Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking will face charges of "information-based market manipulation" in the Stuttgart regional court. Mr. Wiedeking stands accused of deliberately deceiving the market at the height of the takeover battle between Porsche and Volkswagen in 2008. His attorney? Mr. Feigen.


Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen arrived at a Munich court last week for the opening of the criminal trial.



Jan Keuchel is a Handelsblatt correspondent covering the German legal system. Kerstin Leitel covers banks and insurance companies. Christian Wermke is an editor with Handelsblatt Live. To contact the authors: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]