White Collar Law

The term white collar law is a generic term for crimes that primarily occur in economic life. Fraud, embezzlement, corruption offences, competition offences, insolvency offences, disclosure of trade and industrial secrets as well as accounting offences are particularly frequent. Such offences regularly provide for fines or imprisonment. Furthermore, there are a large number of administrative offences that provide for a fine for certain forms of misconduct.

White collar law is complex

White collar offences are investigated by specialised public prosecutor’s units. At the regional courts, specialised criminal divisions are established when such offences are involved and special knowledge of economic life is required. One of the special features of white collar law is that the facts of a case are usually very extensive. It is necessary to become acquainted with the most diverse areas of economic life. From a legal point of view, the proceedings are often complex because white collar law is closely linked to civil or administrative legal consequences. For this reason, and increasingly due to the limited resources of the judiciary, proceedings in white collar cases often take a long time.

Investigations in white collar cases

The investigation proceedings are essential in white collar cases. At this stage, the public prosecutor’s office investigates whether there is a so-called sufficient suspicion of a criminal offence that can be prosecuted. In particular, it may conduct interrogations, searches or seizures and cooperates with other authorities (e.g. police or tax authorities). If an indictment arises as a result of the investigation and finally a trial before the court is opened, several years may pass between the commencement of the criminal proceedings and their final conclusion. For the accused, it is often a considerable burden to be confronted with such long-lasting proceedings.

Corporate criminal law does not (yet) exist in Germany

Legal entities are not subject to prosecution under applicable law. If legal violations occur within the company, investigations are directed against its legal representatives (e.g. board members or managing directors) or against persons with management responsibility. The Federal Court of Justice rejects a general criminal responsibility of the Executive Board or the management. Nevertheless, persons with special responsibility in the company are exposed to an increased risk of criminal prosecution. However, penalties can also be imposed on companies in the event of misconduct. In particular, fines or the confiscation of assets may be considered.

In the recent past, there has been increasing doubt as to whether these legal consequences are sufficient to respond appropriately to crimes in the corporate sector. Therefore, there is a demand to introduce corporate criminal law in Germany as well. Especially in recent years and promoted by high-publicity procedures in the corporate sector, the debate has again moved back into the focus of the legislator. The coalition agreement between the CDU, CSU and SPD from February 2018 names a number of plans to regulate corporate sanctions. In particular, it is discussed that fines may in future amount to up to 10 percent of Group sales, similar to antitrust law. In future, the sanctions imposed could be made public in order to act as a deterrent. An essential element of possible future regulations are also legal guidelines for internal investigations and the effects of contributing to the discovery of misconduct as well as cooperation with investigation authorities. It is already clear today that appropriate systems for avoiding legal violations (compliance management systems) are part of the standard of diligent management and can reduce the risk of criminal charges.

Our service

We offer qualified advice and defence at all stages of white collar proceedings. From the announcement of the investigation, a dawn raid or – in the worst case – the order of remand until the main trial before the criminal court, we support our clients. Our goal is to finish the case as efficiently and discreetly as possible. However, our experience as defence lawyers enables us to litigate a white collar case professionally in court, if required. When it comes to complex legal issues outside criminal law, we work together with specialized law firms that have the necessary expertise in the respective field of law.