On agenda item 3: Resolution on the discharge of the members of the Board of Directors
The members of the Board of Directors are not discharged.
The Board of Directors of Heckler & Koch AG is not living up to its own claim to make the group a „pioneer of a responsible arms export strategy“. The so-called „green country strategy“ is currently irresponsible, as can be seen from the lethal product portfolio. For the Critical Shareholders Heckler & Koch, responsibility means: Heckler & Koch weapons must not be used in wars, armed conflicts or human rights violations under any circumstances.
„Green Countries Strategy“: questionable exceptions and non-transparent criteria
In the Consolidated Financial Statements and Group Management Report of December 31, 2016, Heckler & Koch announced on page 15: „‚Green Countries‘ are defined by an internal company classification based on three publicly available criteria: (i) Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, (ii) NATO member or NATO-equivalent country (Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland), and (iii) Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. Consequently, most EU, NATO, and NATO-equivalent countries are ‚green countries.’“
Instead of consistently pursuing this self-imposed arms export control strategy, the list of exemptions is growing longer and longer due to broad and non-transparent criteria. Now, „other European and non-European states that meet correspondingly strict criteria“ can also be supplied.
As a result, Indonesia, Malaysia and Oman, for example, can now also be considered supposedly ‚green countries‘. All three countries are classified by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) as ‚critical‘ or ‚possibly critical‘ in at least five of the eight criteria of the EU Common Position on Arms Exports. With regard to criterion 2, respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by the country of final destination, all three countries are rated as „critical“.
Corporate responsibility abdicated
While at the time of the introduction of the „Green Countries Strategy“ there was still talk of wanting to go beyond the export regulations of the German government, now the company is once again hiding behind the approvals of the German government. The Group management report for fiscal 2020 states on page 27: „Since arms exports are only permitted with the approval of the Federal Republic of Germany, deliveries to critical countries are definitely ruled out.“ Anyone who abdicates their own corporate responsibility to other institutions in this way does not need to propagate the Group’s own “strategy”. Such a strategy is only worthy of the name if at least the company’s own criteria and risk analyses are made fully transparent and are ethically responsible. Export decisions must also be made publicly comprehensible and must under no circumstances counteract the company’s own export principles. At the turn of the year 2020/2021, the Berlin Administrative Court also confirmed a ban on small arms exports to South Korea, against which H&K unsuccessfully sued.
Illegal exports to Mexico: Federal Court of Justice upholds Heckler & Koch ruling
The fact that the export regulations of the German government and the common practice of end-use declarations should not be the sole yardstick has now also been painfully demonstrated to the Board of Management by the German Federal Supreme Court (BGH).
At the end of March 2021, the BGH dismissed the appeal lodged by Heckler & Koch against the ruling of the Stuttgart Regional Court. Following a criminal complaint filed by the Tübingen-based lawyer Holger Rothbauer and myself, the Regional Court had concluded in February 2019 that export licenses for more than 4,200 assault rifles to Mexico had been fraudulently obtained by means of deliberately false end-use declarations. With its decision, the BGH has now also put a stop to the last attempts by the Board of Management to shift any blame solely onto employees who were involved at the time. Heckler & Koch must now definitely pay more than three million euros.
On agenda item 4: Resolution on the discharge of the members of the Supervisory Board
The members of the supervisory board are not discharged.
The Supervisory Board has still not managed to put an end to the chaos surrounding the change of personnel on the board, to create transparency in the ownership structure, and to make the future of the entire Group independent of the vanity of two managers.
Staff squabbles on the Supervisory Board and dependence on CDE
While the former principal shareholder and CEO Andreas Heeschen is attempting to somehow gain a seat on the Supervisory Board by bringing an action for defective resolutions all the way to the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court, the administration is attempting to prevent this by resubmitting the resolutions of the last Annual General Meeting (see TOP 6). This may be of interest to specialists in German stock corporation law, but the behavior of all those involved is immensely damaging to the company’s reputation and makes it seem doubtful if the Group is run responsibly.
In light of the previous scandals involving illegal arms exports and in view of the efforts to win public contracts from clients other than the German government, those responsible at H&K are creating ever more risks that endanger the company.
Heckler & Koch’s extremely high level of debt is also problematic. The Group management report for 2020 states in four places that, “The continued existence of H&K AG and the H&K AG Group is dependent on the loans taken out and the bonds issued being extended in a timely manner or replaced by other external financing or an increase in equity.” Heckler & Koch thus remains completely dependent on the will of Nicolas Walewski or his Luxembourg financial holding company CDE (Compagnie de Développement de l’Eau). Heckler & Koch will continue to be a kind of pawn in the dispute between Heeschen and Walewski.
The involvement of Edmund Heckler in crimes of National Socialism must be clarified and have consequences
According to research by „Bild am Sonntag,“ Edmund Heckler, co-founder and namesake of Heckler & Koch, headed a HASAG bazooka factory during the Nazi era, where more than 1,000 people were forced to work under coercion and other inhumane conditions, many of whom were beaten to death or shot. HASAG was one of the largest armaments companies in the Nazi era and used tens of thousands of civilian forced laborers, prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates during the Second World War.
It is true that Heckler & Koch has now commissioned the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte (GUG) with the scientific reappraisal of the activities of all three company founders during and shortly after the Nazi era. Shortly after the research began, GUG made it clear that it had to be assumed that Edmund Heckler knew about the cruel conditions in the factory. The results of the scientific investigation must be made available to all interested parties and must be given due consideration in Heckler & Koch’s public self-representation.
Nevertheless, the question arises as to why the Supervisory Board did not take the initiative at an early stage so that possible involvement in crimes committed during the National Socialist era could have been dealt with much earlier. Historian Christopher Kopper judges the 1999 company chronicle to be uncritical and laudatory. One thing should give those responsible for the company pause for thought: A leading Nazi henchman should no longer be the name-patron in a supposedly humanistic society!
Contacts and Information: Dachverband der Kritischen AktionärInnen in Köln, www.kritischeaktionaere.de, Aktion Aufschrei – Stoppt den Waffenhandel! in Berlin, www.aufschrei-waffenhandel.de und RüstungsInformationsBüro in Freiburg, www.ribev.de