Former exec claims toppers were misleading about earnings
BERLIN — The fraud trial of disgraced EM.TV toppers Thomas and Florian Haffa continued Tuesday, amid claims from a former exec that he repeatedly asked the brothers whether the kidvidder could meet its projected earnings for 2000 — forecasts that proved wildly inaccurate.“I asked them again and again if the forecast could indeed be realized,” former supervisory board chairman Nickolaus Becker said. The Haffas always answered yes, he said. The brothers are accused of willfully misleading investors about EM.TV’s financial state and manipulating the share price by reporting inaccurate figures in September 2000. Becker added that he was shocked when EM.TV was forced to slash annual earnings by 90% in December 2000, revealing losses of $1.2 billion in a profit warning. The news caused its stock price to plummet 90% and thousands of private shareholders demanded compensation for losses. Becker ankled in February 2001 in what was rumored to have been a power struggle between himself and then-CEO Thomas Haffa. Fallen media mogul Leo Kirch, whose company went bust last spring, made a rare public appearance Monday to testify in the trial involving his one-time business partners. The prosecution alleges EM.TV based its high profit forecast on deals that had not been signed. The 76-year-old Kirch told the Munich court he had made an oral contract with Thomas Haffa for EM.TV to buy 25 episodes of “The Simpsons” from the Kirch library for x100 million ($100 million). Haffa intended to resell the series to Kirch broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1. But ProSieben never agreed to the deal. Thomas Haffa, who still owns 17.5% of EM.TV, resigned as CEO in summer 2001 and was replaced by Werner Klatten. The brothers face a fine and up to three years in jail if found guilty. The case is expected to run until January. In related news, the insolvency administrator of Taurus Holding, the Kirch Group’s umbrella holding company, is demanding Kirch’s son, Thomas, pay back some $16.4 million he allegedly received from the company before it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.