Deutsche Bank in Tokyo anti-bribery probe

Alice Ross and Daniel Schäfer
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Japanese regulators are scrutinizing Deutsche Bank over concerns that its employees broke Japan's anti-bribery rules by providing corporate entertainment to pension fund executives.

Japan's securities watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, is investigating whether members of Deutsche's pension solutions group in Tokyo spent too much money entertaining clients.

Pension fund managers are involved in managing Japan's national pension scheme and are legally seen as public officials.

(Read more: Deutsche Bank profit misses, hit by legal charges)

Deutsche said that it was "fully co-operating" with Japanese regulators. The bank raised concerns with the regulator itself earlier this year following an internal review of its procedures.

The corporate entertainment under review, details of which were not released, took place several years ago.

"Deutsche Bank is committed to meeting strict standards of compliance with bank policy and regulation," the company said in a statement. "Where improper conduct is found, we address it responsibly and take appropriate action."

The SESC could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Regulators in Japan are keeping a closer eye on pension fund activity after a scandal in 2012 when Tokyo-based investor AIJ Investment Advisors admitted to covering up losses of $1.3 billion of its clients' pension money.

Compliance experts said the latest move may also be a sign that the Japanese regulator is catching up with stricter rules in the U.S. and Europe on corporate hospitality and bribery.

(Read more: Deutsche Bank to shrink to achieve leverage target)

U.S. authorities have long tightened up on hospitality rules for banks entertaining investment managers, while in the UK, the Bribery Act in 2010 additionally raised awareness about the issue.

In the U.S., the issue had come up high on the agenda after a case six years ago when Fidelity Investments paid a $8 million fine to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over charges that several of its brokers received gifts that included concert tickets and a "bachelor party" with female escorts and dwarf-tossing.

Gary Miller, a fraud and corruption lawyer at Mishcon de Reya, said banks have mostly done their homework in recent years: "Every single bank has devoted a huge amount of time and energy on making sure that the right policies are in place and control systems exist."

In Japan and other Asian countries, lavish entertainment of officials to win business has long been part of the cultural norm.

(Read more: JPMorgan's bribery investigation reviewing 200 hires in Asia)

But U.S. regulators have recently stepped up scrutiny of Asian bribery cases, especially if U.S. individuals or companies are involved.

Last year, a former Morgan Stanley investment adviser was sentenced to nine months in prison in the U.S. for conspiring to evade the bank's internal controls by bribing a Chinese official to win lucrative real estate investments.

The SEC and the Department of Justice this summer launched a probe into whether JPMorgan hired the family members of influential figures in the Chinese government and elsewhere in Asia in an effort to win business.