Julian Gruemmer is a doctoral researcher of accounting and auditing at Friedrich-Alexander University, Germany. His work focuses on personal networks and their impact on the performance of companies. Julian has his best ideas when he is on his bike or drinking a coffee.
2021 Talk: What can we learn from knowledge graphs? A Wirecard perspective
The Wirecard scandal was one of the most shocking economic events in Germany in 2020. The former DAX30 company collapsed on June 25, owing creditors more than €3.5 billion (almost $4 billion) after disclosing a gaping hole in its books that its auditor EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud. But were there any signs that something went wrong?
In our study, we gathered all relevant information from management and supervisory board members from the 30 largest companies (DAX30) in Germany for the fiscal year 2019. Relevant information includes place of birth, date of birth, education and work experience. Our knowledge graph contains 745 people, 1.203 companies and organizations, 5.116 roles and 1.128 degrees or educational programs. All this information helps us to understand what was different at Wirecard and what may be the reasons why Wirecard failed. Using a knowledge graph enables us to automatically detect and visualize all kinds of ties between supervisory and management board members, whereas detecting them manually requires more effort and is more error prone. The collection of the data reveals that there was little to no information available for most of the supervisory and management board members of Wirecard, which is uncommon for a DAX30 firm. In addition to that, it is obvious that the management board has far less work experience than managers from comparable companies. When looking at the experience of Wirecard’s supervisory board members, it becomes clear they were little or not all familiar with board activities. Furthermore, our graph shows that supervisory board members from Wirecard are less connected to other members of supervisory boards compared to other DAX30 companies.