According to the Federal Court of Justice's established case law, the penalty for tax evasion of more than €1 million should generally be imprisonment rather than a suspended sentence. However, the court recently ruled that these principles cannot apply to breach of trust allegations. The decision has significant implications for white collar crime and compliance.
A recent Federal Constitutional Court decision has clarified whether documents relating to internal investigations can be regarded as defence documents. Against the hope of companies and law firms, the court rejected the general prohibition on the seizure of such documents; however, it indicated that such a prohibition should always be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The federal government plans to create new corporate penalties and abandon the discretionary principle which has thus far applied in corporate prosecutions. Further, the upper limit of penalties will be significantly increased. At the same time, the government aims to establish legal requirements for internal investigations that provide an incentive for investigation support.
German businesses have steadily expanded their compliance structures and internal training programmes and have never been in a better position than they are now. However, declining support for compliance issues among management is giving compliance officers cause for concern, and recent compliance scandals appear to indicate that further work is necessary to make management fully acknowledge the significance of compliance matters.
The Federal Court of Justice recently decided for the first time that the establishment of a compliance management system designed to prevent breaches of the law can reduce fines in accordance with the Administrative Offences Act. The court pointed out that even the optimisation of a compliance management system following compliance breaches can lead to a reduction in fines and provided guidelines for the measures to be taken in such cases.