Huge fraud losses and an industrial incident which cost the lives of three workers has, as expected, led to the departure of Aurubis ceo Roland Harings and two senior executives.
Harings’ contract is being terminated on 30 September, Rainer Verhoeven (cfo) leaves on 30 June and Dr Heiko Arnold (coo) goes at the end of February. Aurubis’ supervisory board says that, following legal advice, it will not be pursuing compensation against the three ‘at this time’.
The copper producer was rocked by a multi-million-Euro scam in 2023 and in December reported operating earnings before taxes of EUR 349 million for the fiscal year, compared to EUR 532 million a year before. The cost of the fraud has been put at EUR 185 million.
In May 2023, three employees were killed when a nitrogen leak occurred while they were conducting regular maintenance at the primary smelter plant in Hamburg.
In a press release, the company says: ‘The three executive board members are thus taking accountability for the unique challenges Aurubis faced in the past fiscal year, in particular in light of the serious cases of fraud and theft at the Hamburg plant and incidents in occupational safety.
‘Based on a comprehensive legal opinion from the Hengeler Mueller law firm on the responsibility of the three executive board members, the supervisory board has also decided not to pursue compensation for damages against the three executive board members at this time.’
Supervisory board chairman Fritz Vahrenholt adds: ‘The decision of Roland Harings, Rainer Verhoeven, and Heiko Arnold signals exceptional accountability and clears the way for a systematic restructuring and forward-looking cooperation at the company’s helm.
Harings says he is proud of the Aurubis management team for accomplishing a great deal in difficult times. ‘We also have to recognise, however, that Aurubis has been the victim of criminal activities to the considerable detriment of the company. We on the executive board were also deeply saddened by the tragic accidents. And as the executive board, we are drawing the logical conclusion.
‘The main focus now is to steer the company back into calm waters and install an executive board team that enjoys the unequivocal trust of the supervisory board. It goes without saying that we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities to the fullest until the efficient handover is complete.’
In December, when earnings were reported, the company indicated that a series of immediate measures and long-term improvements were being established to increase security after the fraud in which consignments of rock were misrepresented as valuable scrap.
‘These measures include more frequent spot checks of personnel and vehicles along with intensified surveillance of risk areas. Additional approval levels were also introduced in raw material purchasing for specific material groups,’ a press release said. ‘Furthermore, in a group-wide project, individual teams worked with external expert support to analyse ongoing security-relevant processes and prevention potential with the aim of implementing additional measures across sites.’
Aurubis is also planning a closed security area within a new precious metals recycling plant scheduled to come online in Hamburg at the end of 2026.