Banker-Bonus Rules Stoke Tempers in Berlin

Draft rules to scale back banker bonuses were enough to prompt a public spat yesterday between Deutsche Bank co-Chief Executive Officer Juergen Fitschen and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as the two men sat side-by-side on a panel discussing finance regulation in the Bundestag in Berlin.

Schaeuble was the first to answer a query, summarizing a plan by the European Union to limit variable pay to twice the value of base salaries. Fitschen, who eased into an extended critique, contended that such limitations could squelch hiring in certain markets.

“Do you imagine that you can successfully compete in dynamic emerging markets if the German economy minister tells you how much you can pay your top executives in China or Russia?” Fitschen asked a room of legislators and financial experts at the meeting, hosted by the parliamentary caucus of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU-led bloc. “You can’t build a leading position with second- and third-tier people.”

The normally unflappable Schaeuble, who has been bound to a wheelchair since being shot in the back during a campaign event 23 years ago, raised his voice in response.

“The next crisis of this magnitude won’t just cost us our market economy system, but our western democracy as well,” he said. “Those who know that must take the debate a bit more seriously than to say it’s tough to find employees in emerging markets.”

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