GERMANS CONSUMED by tech envy of America allowed themselves a flush of pride when Wirecard won a place in the DAX index in 2018, and its stockmarket value surged above €24bn ($28bn). Here, it seemed, was a European fintech champion: a digital-payments firm headed for global glory. Today, faces are red again—with embarrassment. Wirecard has admitted it has a €1.9bn hole in its accounts. Its founder and boss, Markus Braun, once lauded as a visionary, quit on June 19th and was arrested and bailed this week on suspicion of false accounting and market manipulation. The firm faces bankruptcy or a fire-sale.

Wirecard’s rise and fall is a case study in the carnage possible when a firm’s accounting goes awry but national regulators and big

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