Before declaring bankruptcy, Lehman Bros. had $639 billion in assets. It was thought to be too big to fail. Currently, Deutsche Bank has almost triple those assets, $1.7 trillion, but its future is in question. The bank’s net income plummeted by 80 percent from its 2017 level. The Federal Reserve has labeled Deutsche Bank’s US operation as troubled. And that might be an understatement.
The growing problems at Deutsche Bank, combined with unprecedented global debts, could spell economic and financial chaos. Deutsche Bank is only one of the major banks in trouble. Others are nipping at its heels.
Mismanagement has plagued Deutsche Bank’s U.S. operations for years. The Federal Reserves criticized it in 2014 for inaccurate reporting and regulatory violations. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Federal Reserve demanded corrections, but Deutsche Bank did not comply.
When Deutsche Bank’s stocks crashed, S&P downgraded the bank from A- to BBB+, a rating not far from junk. One of the problems cited by S&P was unstable and shifting leadership and generally poor performance.
Deutsche Bank is far from acknowledging any problems. Its new CEO Sewing spoke to his staff after the rating downgrade and reassured them of the bank’s inherent strength and future strategies. Following this speech, Deutsche Bank was forced to report a drop in revenues of 5 percent, and a decrease in income of 79 percent. Could Sewing have been a tad optimistic?
Its losses for 2017 were reported at 497 million euros, compared to the 290 million euros predicted by Reuters analysts. If Deutsche Bank is to survive, significant changes will have to be implemented. And so far, it’s not even acknowledging it has a problem.
While Deutsche Bank appears to be following in the footsteps of Lehman Bros., a comparison to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac may be more accurate. So far, the German government has denied any plans to bail out trouble Deutsche Bank, but this is likely change. Germany’s largest bank is more critical to its economy than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were to the US. In addition, the German government would acquire Deutsche Bank’s assets at a fraction of their value. It is doubtful that Chancellor Merkel will be able to resist such temptation. Besides, allowing Deutsche Bank to fail could have catastrophic consequences for Germany and a bad effect on the global economy.
With a possible financial crisis looming, Germany has shown a renewed interest in gold. Gold has historically been the most reliable hedge against inflation, and Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has repatriated 583 tonnes, or $31 million worth, of gold recently, years ahead of schedule.
Deutsche Bank is not the only European bank with overvalued assets. If Deutsche Bank continues its path to a destructive downfall, other banks will be affected. That is the reason gold is looking like an excellent investment against any future financial ripple effect. Deutsche Bank is suffering from a lack of faith for a reason. Gold could put investors’ minds at ease.