The accounting scandal at Wirecard has claimed the scalp of CEO Markus Braun, who has resigned with immediate effect.
The new of Braun's resignation caps a tumultuous couple of days for the German payment processor, which yesterday revealed a £1.9 billion black hole in its balance sheet amid reports that the Trustee to accounts held at two Asian banks had attempted “to deceive the auditor and create a wrong perception of the existence of such cash balances”.
The share price fell through the floor on the news, dropping by 66% as markets responded to the latest setback to the troubled firm, which has already delayed its annual report on three previous occasions as allegations about financial impropriety swirled.
In a video statement released this morning, Braun said: "At present it cannot be ruled out that Wirecard has become the aggrieved party in a case of fraud of considerable proportions."
Braun is being replaced by James Freis as interim CEO. Freis was due to join the firm in July to take charge of a newly created department of 'Integrity, Legal and Compliance', but was parachuted into the role yesterday following the suspension of chief operating officer Jan Marsalek.
In a statement upon his resignation, Braun says: "The confidence of the capital market in the company I have been managing for 18 years has been deeply shaken. With my decision, I respect the fact that responsibility for all business transactions lies with the CEO."
The future for Wirecard as a viable business proposition remains unclear. Within an hour of Braun's departure, the company issued a further statement, confirming that it is in "discussions with its lending banks with regard to the continuation of the credit lines and the further business relationship".
Wirecard has an outstanding revolving credit facility of EUR1.75 billion, which is due in June 2014. At least 15 banks - led by Commerzbank AG, ABN Amro, LBBW and ING - face the prospect of a massive default should the company be declared insolvent.