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.
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.