Berlin - Germany's first high-profile #MeToo scandal appears to be brewing after Axel Springer, Germany's biggest newspaper publisher, launched a compliance investigation into Julian Reichelt, the 40-year-old editor-in-chief of its flagship Bild tabloid.
In-house compliance officer Florian von Götz is investigating accusations of bullying and coercion from seven female employees who say the editor took advantage of his managerial position, Berliner Zeitung has learned. Axel Springer, which also publishes Die Welt newspaper, has also asked Düsseldorf law firm Freshfields to pitch in on the investigation.
Germany's media scene was untouched by the 2017 #MeToo outrage with one notable exception - Munich prosecutors earlier this month charged 81-year-old film director Dieter Wedel with rape. His accuser first came forward during the #MeToo movement and prosecutors launched the three-year investigation.
The accusations against Reichelt first began to circulate Friday but were reported widely Monday, a holiday in Berlin - where Bild and Axel Springer are based - to celebrate International Women's Day. However, there is so far no evidence that the accusations could be criminal.
Proof that the incidents happened on-the-job
The accusations are not the first against the controversial editor of Bild, the country's most widely read newspaper which is famous for populist and sometimes politically misleading headlines. Earlier investigations never led to action but the difference this time is that so many women have come forward. The women can apparently also prove that the incidents occurred during their employment at Bild.
The investigation is said to be at an advanced stage and Springer could present the first results in just a few days. Reichelt is apparently still on the job.
He has been chairman of Bild's editorial board since 2017 and editor-in-chief of the tabloid's print edition since 2018.