Signa insolvency: And the money is gone

Signa insolvency: And the money is gone

If you want to invest money, you should carefully consider who you trust with it. Especially when this money is intended to finance tasks for the general public.

The RAG Foundation in Essen has one main task: to finance the so-called perpetual burdens of German mining. The figures are indeed on Dysentery and Saar have long been closed. But there is still a lot to do for an indefinite period of time: mine drainage, polder measures and groundwater purification are necessary in the old areas. The foundation provides money for such work. So you should use it responsibly so that it lasts a long time.

Of all things, the RAG Foundation is now one of them Major investors in the currently collapsing Signa Group of the Austrian profiteer René Benko. And of all things, the Essen-based company was negligent when it came to the deals with the real estate entrepreneur. In any case, this conclusion is obvious if you work through the minutes of the general meetings of various Signa companies.

The RAG Foundation has a direct stake in two Benko real estate companies. It holds five percent of the shares in Signa Prime, which bundles particularly valuable projects. She also holds almost four percent of Signa Development, another company. Both companies have been insolvent since the end of December. And, particularly unpleasantly, Jürgen-Johann Rupp, the RAG Foundation’s chief financial officer, sits on the supervisory board of both.

However, Rupp was regularly absent from the important general meetings of the two companies. For example, on July 15, 2021: Signa Prime invited people to the shareholders’ meeting in Innsbruck on that day. Rupp is recorded as “excused” in the minutes. The Austrian Stock Corporation Act states: The members of the supervisory board “must be present at the general meeting as far as possible”.

It is not the only negligence on the part of those responsible for the foundation that year. As shareholders, the Essen-based company also granted voting rights to a Viennese law firm, which served as Signa’s advisor, for the general meeting. And they were represented by Manuel Pirolt, Signa Prime’s CFO. To put it into perspective: This is a bit like a teacher asking his rowdy students to simply supervise themselves.

At best, mitigating circumstances for such sloppiness could be claimed because other investors also authorized Pirolt – the Agricultural Insurance Association from Münster, for example. Or R+V Lebensversicherung AG, which was represented by the Vienna law firm. But a mistake doesn’t become any less serious just because others have made it.

There were a lot of things to decide in the summer of 2021. For example, about the remuneration of Signa Prime’s supervisory board members. The ten supervisors were rewarded with an impressive total of 837,000 euros. But who got how much will not be revealed. “The distribution of remuneration between the members of the Supervisory Board takes place internally,” it says in the minutes.

Upon request, the RAG Foundation left open how high Rupp’s share was, but the remuneration was always offset against his income as a board member. Furthermore, Rupp “always carried out his supervisory board mandates conscientiously,” said a spokeswoman. With a small group of shareholders, it is also “not unusual” for general meetings to take place “on a small scale” without members of the supervisory board. The transfer of voting rights did not lead to a conflict of interest because the authorized representatives followed the foundation’s instructions when voting.

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