Financial Times journalists Dan McCrum and Stefania Palma’s detailed account of fraudulent accounting activity at global payments group Wirecard AG, was the culmination of four years of investigating the company’s financial practices.
The publication of the articles in early 2019 led to a series of baseless claims against the FT in an attempt to distract from the serious allegations that had been made.
The subsequent revelation of €1.9bn in missing cash, the resignation and arrest of the fintech group’s chief executive, and the firm's collapse into insolvency have vindicated the FT’s reporting of the story. For shareholders, organisations that use Wirecard's technology and other connected third parties, the FT has been a trusted guide to the unfolding scandal and its fallout.
Charting Wirecard’s rise and fall
Prior to the publication of the FT’s findings, Wirecard had been one of Europe’s hottest technology investments. Between 2004 and 2018, Wirecard’s revenue grew 50-fold and it even joined the exclusive Dax 30 stock market index.
Shares in Wirecard hit a peak of nearly €200 in the summer of 2018, but following the FT article in January 2019, short interest in the shares exploded. The drop in share price reflected the firmly-held belief in the market that the FT’s reporting was accurate.
In the face of attacks on their integrity, Dan McCrum and his team persevered in ensuring that organisations who had subscribed to the FT could see the risk coming. While Wirecard’s share price fluctuated and its executives denied any wrongdoing, the FT’s reporting cut through the noise and presented readers with the facts.
The winners and losers
Despite a mounting weight of evidence against the firm, some analysts continued to tell clients to buy Wirecard shares and the money kept pouring in from investors. Fund managers took sizable bets on the FT’s suggestions that a large portion of Wirecard’s revenue did not exist being wrong.
Those managers, alongside other shareholders and creditors are now nursing heavy losses. The story has also left the German regulator BaFin and auditors EY facing significant damage to their reputations. Those who recognised the early warning signs from the FT have avoided loss on the same scale or in the case of many short-sellers, were able to capitalise.
The value of the FT here lies in its ability to highlight risks and opportunities that can sit outside of a decision-maker’s immediate field of vision. All articles are double-sourced by FT journalists and reported with urgency, enabling subscribers to trust what they’re reading is accurate and independent. While not every story will be of a similar magnitude to the Wirecard scandal, risks and opportunity lay behind every corner and organisations can’t afford to ignore the signals.
To catch up on the Wirecard story in full, visit the curated ‘Inside Wirecard’ section on FT.com, as well as Alphaville’s ‘House of Wirecard’ series. Dan McCrum has also recorded an excellent video summary. If you'd like to explore all that FT.com offers, get in touch about a free 30 day trial for you and your team.
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