German FinTech giant Wirecard became insolvent in the last week of June, in the wake of a €1.9 billion accounting fraud – money that has disappeared from its books or may never have existed.
The company is also being investigated for potential links to money-laundering and terrorist financing, allegations that it has denied.
The events saw €12 billion wiped off its market capitalisation – 95 percent of the value of its shares. Wirecard has roughly €3.5 billion in debt, and its creditors include 15 banks.
As a high-profile FinTech involved in one of Europe’s largest ever accounting frauds, the saga also poses problems for the many companies that rely on Wirecard’s services to make payments and transfer money.
And as a digital company with few real-world assets, the aim since the debacle has been to keep the company’s payments subsidiaries in business for long enough to allow a meaningful sale to take place.
On 26 June 2020, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority imposed a number of restrictions on Wirecard, including that the firm would not be able to dispose of any assets or funds, or carry on any regulated activities.
A statement by the FCA said, “Our primary objective has always been to protect the interests and money of consumers who use Wirecard. We have worked with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) and the Home Office over the weekend in order to help any customers suffering financial distress and directed people to that support on our website.”
However, on 29 June the FCA announced that Wirecard could resume regulated activities, and resume issuing e-money and providing payment services.
The FCA said, “We continue to monitor Wirecard’s activities closely and certain requirements continue to remain in force. These should not, however, affect the services Wirecard provides to its customers. This means customers can now or very shortly use their cards as necessary.”
Some restrictions remain in place over where it can hold customer monies and its ability to transfer assets.