Hengeler Mueller has broken with tradition to work pro bono, for the German government
The firm defended German finance minister Hans Eichel against a e1m (£651,400) claim brought by a disgruntled Deutsche Telekom shareholder. Düsseldorf partner Gerd Kreiger represented Eichel in a lawsuit over the dismissal of Ron Sommer, the former Deutsche Telekom chief executive officer. He was given a severance payment of e12m (£7.8m), but it was rumoured that he received as much as e53m (£34.5m) more. The price of Deutsche Telekom's shares, which are widely held in Germany, plummeted by around 90 per cent during Sommer's tenure. It was alleged that Eichel and German chancellor Gerhard Schroder had ordered the board of the privatised company to sack Sommer in the run-up to the closely-fought federal elections. But there was a suspicion that Schroder and Eichel kept Sommer sweet with the payout because Deutsche Telekom had paid so much for mobile phone licences when the government auctioned them off in 2000. The suit was dropped as soon as Schroder and Eichel filed their defence. Kreiger said there was never a genuine case and the suit was just a ploy to attract publicity.