FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Chief Executive Josef Ackermann struggled to make himself heard as protestors outside and shareholders inside vented their anger over Deutsche Bank's <DBKGn.DE> leadership vacuum, legal issues and business practices.
Shareholders of the flagship lender, gathered in Frankfurt for its annual general meeting at the Frankfurt fair and exhibition center on Thursday as the bank attempted to underline its achievements and shed light on its plans.
Ackermann had to wait until security staff evicted one ponytailed female protestor clad in bright socks who had attempted to interrupt his speech with a tin whistle and two others who had tried to unfurl a banner, before launching a staunch defense of Deutsche's achievements.
Even conservative shareholders expressed their frustration. Klaus Nieding from DSW, the association of private investors urged the bank to settle the succession issue quickly: "I hope you find the right candidate. You should end the speculation."
But Deutsche Bank's supervisory board chairman Clemens Boersig did not provide any guidance on progress finding a successor for Ackermann, beyond reiterating the bank was following an "orderly process" that any developments will be communicated at the "appropriate time."
Ackermann underlined the bank's milestone acquisitions that helped the lender achieve near record earnings in the first quarter and emphasized he would fight a raft of lawsuits that have recently hit the bank.
"Where we believe we are being attacked unjustly, we will defend ourselves vigorously," he said.
"In an organization of over 100,000 people in more than 70 countries around the world, breaches of these principles cannot be eliminated once and for all."
Shareholder Simone Lennerz, a bespectacled protestor clad in a cream-colored summer dress from environmental pressure group Urgewald, was unimpressed.
She said she wanted to highlight the fact Deutsche Bank had helped finance Tepco <9501.T>, the operator of the Japanese nuclear power plant at Fukushima, and would seek to make her voice heard.
She stood near Willi van Ooyen, a member of the Left party in the state of Hessen, who was campaigning for "better control of the banks, to get to a new global financial culture which is not so focused on profits, and financing weapons and wars."
The bank asked shareholders to approve a new capital framework, a measure that Ackermann said was merely a precautionary measure.
"We do not have any concrete plans to make use of this, but want to be prepared and always be able to react flexibly to growth and acquisition opportunities," he said.
Thanks to the purchase of Deutsche Postbank the bank now has a significantly bigger retail banking business, which it said would let it benefit from the sector's international expansion.
Meanwhile, legal problems are piling up for the bank. This week, it emerged that New York's attorney general has sought information from Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>, UBS AG <UBS.N> and others as part of a probe into mortgage operations.
The U.S. government sued Deutsche Bank for more than $1 billion, accusing the German bank of fraud for repeatedly lying to obtain federal guarantees on mortgages it issued. Deutsche Bank has dismissed the lawsuits as being without merit.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Mike Nesbit)