Under the current legal framework, companies cannot make themselves liable to prosecution. However, they can be sanctioned with fines if legal representatives or senior executives violate their duties. If investigations are initiated, not only alleged misconduct of the natural persons involved is examined. Increasingly, the focus of interest is on whether the company has taken sufficient measures to effectively prevent violations of the law. For some years now, case law has recognised an effective internal compliance system as an important factor in the calculation of a fine.
For several years, there has been a debate about whether the current legal framework is sufficient to combat corporate crime. In contrast to most other economic nations, German law does not yet recognise the original criminal liability of legal entities. However, times are changing. In particular, the facts that have recently come to light in the financial sector (including “Cum/Ex”) or the automotive industry (“diesel scandal”) have redefined thinking.
Since April 2020, a draft law has been available from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. The “Act to Strengthen Integrity in Business” places the sanctioning of companies on an independent legal basis. At its centre is the so-called Act on the Sanctioning of Company-Related Offences (VerSanG). This law provides for, in particular, the following innovations:
We represent and advise companies comprehensively in connection with official investigations. As corporate lawyers, we handle communication with the prosecution authorities and coordinate the defence of legal representatives and employees. We have extensive procedural experience in defending against company-related sanctions and in introducing effective compliance structures. We regularly cooperate with auditing companies and IT forensic experts in this regard.
Increasingly, companies themselves are becoming victims of criminal conduct. On the one hand, employees might commit offences like embezzlement, breach of trust or violation of business secrets. On the other hand, crimes are committed by external third parties. We provide support in investigating the facts of the case. And we represent the interests of the company vis-à-vis police and investigation authorities or courts. We file criminal complaints and cooperate with specialized civil law experts to recover assets.