Lieb Exits Schenker

Even for insiders, today’s announcement came as total surprise: Schenker’s CEO Thomas Lieb will leave the logistics company on the 31st of March “to pursue other tasks outside the Deutsche Bahn Group,” the transport giant states in an urgent release out today. However, no explanation for Lieb’s unexpected and sudden departure is given by Deutsche Bahn, thereby opening the floodgates for many rumors.

Thomas Lieb  /  photo: hs
Thomas Lieb / photo: hs

Is Schenker sitting in a glass house? So it seems when taking a closer look to what’s currently happening there.

Schenker - crusader against the evil
Just as a reminder: Accompanied by extensive media coverage, the Deutsche Bahn logistics daughter has recently filed lawsuits against a number of cargo carriers both in U.S. and German courts, claiming high compensation payments for alleged inflated fees cashed in by the airlines as a result of illegally fixing prices on kerosene and security surcharges over many years. By doing so, Schenker presented itself as chief guardian of virtues, fighting a crusade against immoral and illegal practices in air freight.  
Today, the “Mr Clean” of the industry announced Thomas Lieb (56) is stepping down from his posts as head of the business unit DB Schenker Logistics and Chairman of Schenker AG’s Management Board with immediate effect. 

Schenker - showing another face
What do the lawsuits and one of Deutsche Bahn’s most influential manager’s hasty departure have to do with each other? Nothing directly though, but there are strong indications that they are prompted by similar illegal occurrences. While in air freight it was an airline cartel which agreed on anti competitive price fixing arrangements, in Lieb’s case it looks like he lost his job due to suspicions of corruption. As internal sources confirm, a number of leading Schenker managers are suspected to have participated in continuous bribe payments at the harbour of Saint Petersburg in order to speed up the turnover of shipments. According to experience, clearance of goods can last ten or more days as result of the inefficiency and disinterest of Russian customs officials.

Bribery is common practice in Russia
When asked by CargoForwarder Global, a local Saint Petersburg agent confirmed the common practice at both the city’s harbour and airport is that some gratuity or business courtesies normally help to circumvent bottlenecks and get imports cleared fast, preventing the goods from getting stuck for weeks at local warehouses.
As recently became known, since more than a year the state prosecutor’s office in Cologne is investigating the activities of nine Schenker managers, who are under suspicion to having continuously paid bribes to corrupt Russian officials in Saint Petersburg. Among the suspects are Schenker’s country manager Germany, Hannsjoerg Rodi and his boss, Dr. Thomas Lieb.
Incidentally, Schenker’s class action lawsuit against major cargo carriers concerning price-fixing allegation is pending before the Cologne court, located next door to the public prosecutor's office, which is investigating the Saint Petersburg briberies.

Heiner Siegmund

Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Don Simon (Friday, 13 March 2015 22:26)

    I have one comment and a link

    oh we have such short memories - anyone for gardening clubs ?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/business/global/Europe-Levies-Big-Fines-for-Freight-Cartel.html?_r=0

  • #2

    AirBaer (Thursday, 19 March 2015 14:12)

    Sorry, but I need to comment on this: Your source claims, that it is common practice to pay some gratuity to authorities in Russia, which can be for sure confirmed for many other countries in the world. But speculating, that somebody of Dr. Lieb's format personally could be accused of corruption is very close to defamation. As you are a German citizen, you should know, that in German law, a CEO can be held responsible for actions taken in his jurisdiction and this is why he is part of the investigation . That however does not mean that Dr. Lieb or Dr. Rodi are real suspects - or do you really think that a CEO of a multi billion company himself bribes a russian customs officer ? As a professional journalist, I would really expect that you find other words for such speculations, if you wish to get interviews in future with leading heads of the industry.

  • #3

    Heiner Siegmund (Saturday, 21 March 2015 11:49)

    Hello Mr or Mrs "AirBaer“
    Thank you for commenting on our report. Open and critical words are always appreciated as they help to clarify issues and should lead to avoid misinterpreting contents published in CFG.
    We fully agree with your point that DB Schenker’s Thomas Lieb, from all what we know and experienced in press meetings and talks is a logistics leader of utmost personal integrity. Also, we share your view that Russia is not the only country on earth where gratuities help influencing processes and decisions.
    However, in contrast to your allegation, in our report we are not personally accusing Mr Lieb of being corrupt or having actively taken part in any illegal activities. Nor do we say that both he and Mr. Rodi are directly suspected by state prosecutors of having personally bribed Russian customs officers, as indicated by you. All we say is that under Lieb’s auspices, supposedly behind his back, there seems to be mounting indications that Schenker managers were / or might have been involved in briberies in Saint Petersburg. Or how else can it be explained that Cologne-based prosecutors are investigating the Russian activities of almost a dozen Schenker managers? And why doesn’t Schenker say a single word in their release about Mr Lieb’s hasty departure from office? That these investigations also include examining the role of the executives responsible for Schenker’s biz is logical and part of their duty. These aren’t speculations, as stated by you, but obvious facts.
    Our role as independent media is it to investigate such occurrences and publish our findings, no matter if liked or disliked by the companies or persons affected. In this context we strongly reject your threat that we should change our wording when reporting on critical issues or else we wouldn’t get any further interviews by leading heads of the industry. Sometimes the truth hurts.
    One final remark: It would have been appropriate if you hadn’t chosen a pseudonym when addressing us but mentioned your real name. By hiding behind the artificial name of “AirBaer” you nourish suspicions of being close to the scene or maybe acting as an unofficial spokesperson for one or the other person.
    Come out into the open so we can mutually put the record straight.
    Regards, HS