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Incompetence is a strong word. It means the lack of the ability to do something well. I do not know if Russia was incompetent with regard to the chemical weapons in Syria, but I do know Deutsche Bank is incompetent in handling certain basic information processing tasks for me. I can’t deny this is a rant, but the situation I will describe is so outrageous I cannot remain silent. My experience with Deutsche Bank goes back four years when a company in New York, where I was an investor and director, was sold to another company. The disbursements of the proceeds of the sale were handled by Deutsche Bank. Their processes were slow and inefficient. Everything was handled by mailing of paper documents. The IRS filings they made were incorrect causing all the investors to have to re-file tax returns. But their latest set of actions takes the cake.

As is typical after the sale of a company, portions of the proceeds are held in escrow for periods of time. In the case at hand, the final escrow release was to take place this past December. I got a phone call in December from Deutsche Bank asking me to send them a new W-9 tax form. The W-9 is a simple form which provides taxpayer identification and certification. I said they have a W-9 on file for me, which was used several times. They agreed but said they wanted a new one. Since my address had changed, I saw it as a good idea. I filled out and signed the W-9 and emailed it to them. They replied saying the document was blank. I took a look and the PDF was not blank. They insisted they could not read it. I took a picture of the PDF with my iPhone and sent to them. They were happy. Not being able to read a PDF document is pretty basic these days, but it turned out to be the least of the incompetence to follow.

As I was completing my tax return on April 10, I realized I had not received a 1099 from Deutsche Bank to confirm the proceeds I had received. I needed the 1099 because it must match what the IRS sees from their copy of it. I sent an email asking them to send me a PDF of the 1099 so I could complete my tax return. They said they had mailed the 1099 and gave me the address where it was sent. It was an old address. I reminded them they had called me in December for a new W-9. I had sent it, it had my new address, and my signature. DB said they cannot update their address records from a W-9. They must receive confirmation of my new address from a person in Boston who was involved in the sale of the company. The signed W-9 was not sufficient, they must have confirmation from somebody who does not know my address. They asked me to send the person in Boston an email with my new address and then he would have to send an email to DB confirming my address. Go figure.

Once again, I asked them to please send me a PDF of the 1099. They said “Unfortunately, the vendor that we use to send these tax forms out will not budge on sending any tax forms via email or fax in an effort to avoid any possible liability of the forms ending up in the wrong hands.” In other words, you can’t trust email or fax, but you can trust the USPS. Yes, they said. I asked them how they know for sure the envelope gets to the right person and how do they know who actually opens the envelope. They stood firm. They will mail me a 1099, which I would receive after the deadline for filing my tax return. I knew the amount of the proceeds, so I looked at a prior year’s 1099 and did my best to enter the information for 2016. The alternative was to file late or request an extension due to Deutsche Bank’s incompetence. An assistant vice president of the bank told me this is how they do things.

The U.S. banking industry had a record profit in 2016 of $171.3 billion dollars. Deutsche Bank, a German company but doing significant business in the U.S., had revenue for 2016 of 31.9 billion dollars. The bank’s loss was 1.4 billion dollars. It is obvious their problems are much bigger than the incompetence in handling simple disbursements. Deutsche Bank has frequently been involved in controversies and allegations of deceitful behavior or illegal transactions. As of 2016, the bank was involved in 7,800 legal disputes and reserved 5.7 billion dollars for legal settlements. Six former employees were found guilty of major tax fraud. In May 2009, Deutsche Bank announced the top executives were aware of possible violations of rules related to internal procedures and legal requirements.  In April 2015, Deutsche Bank agreed to $2.5 billion in fines by American regulators for its involvement in an interest rate scandal uncovered in June 2012. The company also admitted wire fraud, acknowledging more than 25 employees had engaged in illegal activity. In the current year, the bank was fined $425 million by the New York State Department of Financial Services for accusations of money laundering $10 billion out of Russia. The list is longer, and that is a sample of the bank’s problems. I wonder how many pieces of paper will be handled (or mishandled) for the 7,800 legal disputes.