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Reference no. ESMT-708-0084-1
Published by:
ESMT European School of Management and Technology (2008)
31 March 2008
21 pages
Data source:
Field research


This case describes the events that led to the near-collapse of Bankgesellschaft Berlin and the subsequent restructuring that was completed in July 2007. The state-owned bank was saved from failure by a capital injection of 1.8 billion euros and a guarantee for the covering of losses of up to 21.7 billion euros provided by the state of Berlin. These measures almost bankrupted the state of Berlin and had wide-ranging political consequences. The case therefore highlights the current problems of the German banking system, which is dominated by publicly-owned savings banks. The case covers the events of Bankgesellschaft Berlin between 1996 and 2006. It opens with Thomas Kurze, a member of the management board of Bankgesellschaft Berlin, in November 2000. He has to decide on a proposal for raising cash to prevent the looming collapse of the bank. The dilemma of Thomas Kurze is told from two angles: (1) the managerial angle focuses on saving the bank through recapitalisation or restructuring, and on the limits set by the co-determination of the supervisory board; and (2) the personal angle focuses on his individual responsibility to the bank versus the pressure and demands of the politicians involved. This includes the discussion of his personal values being in conflict with the bank. The case has students analyse the impact of a public shareholder with multiple interests on a major German bank, and the flawed governance structure of which has led it to near-collapse. Students will furthermore discuss the choices a business leader has when faced with this dilemma. The case was written entirely using publicly available information - especially information from public hearings and a special report of the Berlin parliament published in 2006.


Banking; Ethics; Conflict of interest; Politics; Leadership; Crew resource management
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