Inheritance Trouble Deutsche Bank's Jewish Inheritance Fight

Heirs to a wealthy German Jewish family claim Deutsche Bank withheld as much as $3 billion in family fortune. The bank denies the claim, which it says has been dismissed previously, but it's a sensitive new legal headache for Germany's biggest bank.
Dark clouds over Deutsche Bank's headquarters in Frankfurt.

A Jewish organization in the United States is demanding back payment from Deutsche Bank of nearly $3 billion, claiming the bank wrongly withheld the money from the heirs of a wealthy German family.

For Deutsche Bank, which just this week agreed to pay a colossal $7.2-billion penalty over the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the United States, the looming conflict is an extra-sensitive addition to a pile of lawsuits the bank faces across the world.

The North American Wertheim Jewish Education Trust filed its complaint at a Florida federal court on Wednesday, claiming the bank refused to return funds originally deposited by the wealthy Wertheim family before the rise of the Nazis.

Given the sensitivity of the issue, a spokesman said Deutsche Bank was “taking the matter very seriously” but denied the new charges, calling them "completely unfounded." The spokesman said the same lawsuit has already been filed – and dismissed – in other U.S. states. “All proceedings initiated against Deutsche Bank in this matter have been decided in favor of Deutsche Bank," he added.

The Wertheims, known in Germany for the founding of luxury department store KaDeWe in Berlin, fled Germany for Spain and in 1931 initially deposited their money in an account at what is now the Credit Suisse Group. These accounts were later transferred to Deutsche Bank, according to the complaint seen by Bloomberg.

The trust claims Deutsche misled the Wertheim heirs for many years about the accounts and that it has refused cooperation on the matter of the family fortune.


Tina Bellon is an editor for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: [email protected]