“I walked in and hedge fund manager Leo Perry was sitting there,” McCrum said.
“He theorized that this weird Wirecard company was cooking up his books. And it started the strangest story I’ve ever come across.”
Perry thinks Wirecard’s profits aren’t as big as the company claims.
Curious, McCrum said he’d take a look, and he quickly began to think Perry was up to something. But his suspicions increased after he picked up the phone to Wirecard.
“Every interaction with the company was a bit out of the ordinary and weird,” says McCrum.
“Everything they do makes me believe that something is up.”
“But then it started going in a direction I never expected, when hackers and private detectives started showing up.”
Fast-forward to 2020 and Wirecard, the 20 billion euro payments business based in Munich once considered the pinnacle of Germany’s burgeoning tech sector, has collapsed miserably after the company reported that almost 2 billion euros were missing from his account.
The CEO, Markus Braun, was immediately arrested and later charged with fraud, while COO Jan Marsalek is still on the run from German police, believed to be hiding in Russia.
It was the culmination of many years of careful investigative work by McCrum, Financial Times colleagues and their sources in the City, which will see Dan and editor Paul Murphy comb through hundreds of documents leaked by insiders while entertaining Wirecard executives at secret meetings. at the luxurious Mayfair Hotel.
In his new book, Money Men, McCrum opens up to the investigation of how a large part of his life has been spent, while he meticulously guides readers through every step of his journey, beginning with it. with his first Caffe Nero. cuppa.
It was a stressful period for McCrum and his colleagues – one that became more intense when he heard reports of thugs threatening to confront his source, threatening break their legs unless they confess all they know about Wirecard. McCrum began to worry about his own safety – and that of his family -.
“There are dark moments… I would stay up all night just thinking about what to do if an invasion was coming,” he said.
“I will keep a hammer under my bed… I am only operating in this deep sense of paranoia.”
Aside from the spies, however, McCrum says the biggest obstacle to staying calm is trying to convince people that he’s telling the truth when Wirecard shareholders, and German authorities, seem to think that he is speaking ill for personal gain. At one point, he was even investigated by the FT.
“Things have gotten so crazy that there’s just one more bullshit happening to you,” McCrum said.
“This is when you start doubting yourself. Your job as a reporter is to figure things out, check it’s right, and present it to the world.
“The sad thing is when the world turns around and says, ‘we don’t trust you, it sounds like you’re more of a corrupt person.’
It’s a fascinating story – and certainly the most interesting thing you’ll ever read about a payments company.
The investigation involved talking to so many sources, insiders, lawyers and reporters that sometimes the book isn’t the easiest to follow – but its complexity reflects the web of information. vastness that McCrum had to gather before he could trigger the explosive FT narrative that ultimately led to the company’s downfall.
Money Men are on sale today.