Within the vast field of white-collar criminal law, our outstanding skills are:
Compliance, Prevention and Crisis Consultation
Companies in Germany and around the world associate “compliance” with the company's special efforts to establish a culture of compliance with the law within the company, its operating units and the operational units.
In the wake of the numerous corruption and financial crises of recent years and the great attention paid to it by courts and investigative authorities, compliance has taken on considerable importance for corporate organisation. Beyond the expectations of the legislator regarding the legality of a legal entity, compliance not only establishes a purely rule-based matrix of requirements, but also places the person of the employee and manager at the center of considerations. It provides him or her with assistance in the form of so-called guidelines, process instructions or advisory services (often also called "guard rails and road signs" [stop signs, traffic lights, walking and driving paths, etc.]) so that the individual can find his or her way in an environment of differing expectations and corporate objectives. This is also the basic idea behind the German Corporate Governance Code (GCGC).
The central ethical foundations of compliance are based on a holistic view of the production and supply chain, the need to support and implement human rights even where the company itself can no longer exercise organisational and management power (especially in supply relationships in developing and emerging countries). Finally, especially in a competitive environment, objectives are required that make a difference to exclusive expectations of efficiency or optimisation. Ultimately, requirements under criminal law (prohibition laws) are translated into instructions for action to avoid such violations.
In the field of compliance, we provide comprehensive preventive advice to entrepreneurs and business managers on the requirements and fulfillment of a necessary and appropriate compliance management system (CMS) up to audit readiness in accordance with the standards of the Institute of Public Auditors in Germany (IDW PS 980) as well as the international quality standard ISO 19.6001 and ISO 37.001. We are also experienced in the evaluation of already existing CMS and can provide support in an advisory or auditing capacity together with our cooperation partners.
From a legal perspective, we provide comprehensive advice on increased due diligence requirements as well as criminal law risks in business transactions, competition, foreign trade and tax issues, production liability and traffic safety obligations, supervisory duties as managing director, executive board and supervisory board. In the event of specific investigations, we act both as corporate attorneys under criminal law and as coordinators for crisis management. At your request, we will work together with your internal audit department, your compliance department, your auditors and tax advisors on an interdisciplinary basis. We support you in the risk analysis of your business operations and the organisational implementation of compliance measures.
Due to the considerable importance of the subject area also abroad, in particular in the American, English, European and especially also Eastern European jurisdictions, we are also active on a cross-border basis for companies and auditing firms.
Corporate representation and directors‘ and officers‘ liability
Understanding factual allegations and legal accusations is vital for a company facing criminal investigations. Once proceedings are initiated against a director, officer or employee, the firm is legally obliged and personally interested in gaining insights in the asserted facts and their legal assessment in order to preserve the image of integrity.
The consequences of such investigations vary: not only individual analysts or employees can be The resulting cooperation with the public prosecutor’s office or the investigating professional chambers can often lead to positive cooperation on both sides, i.e. a “win-win situation”. On the one hand, the company is interested in investigating the crime internally and drawing appropriate consequences from the misconduct. This may involve labour law consequences or a rethinking of the company’s internal control mechanisms. On the other hand, there is an advantage for the investigating authorities. The latter can gain comprehensive insights into the company's processes and thus, in the best case, enable a rapid clarification of the facts to be investigated.
At least in German criminal law, the principle of “Societas delinquere non potest” (still) applies (while in light of a current proposal to introduce a law on the legal responsibility of entities, this situation is likely to change in the future). This means that our legal system does not have a codified corporate criminal law. Nevertheless, legal entities and associations of persons are frequently the focus of investigations under criminal and administrative penalty law to a particular extent. The consequences of such investigations are manifold: not only individual company officers or employees can be affected by criminal and regulatory investigations, but the company itself can also be exposed to serious financial burdens through criminal measures such as corporate fines (ss. 30, 130 of the German Act on Regulatory Offences – OWiG) or confiscation (ss. 74 ff of the German Criminal Code – StGB). Even the initiation of proceedings can have a considerable disruptive impact on day-to-day business operations, with companies having to deal with problems such as searches, seizures and, not least, negative press coverage.
In the case of commercially active companies, there is also an economic risk for the management to be prosecuted and sanctioned under civil and criminal law. In many business (criminal) law situations, the special concerns of managing directors, board members and supervisory board members must therefore be considered both preventively and in defense of the company.
In this area, we offer comprehensive support to both companies and individuals. Knierim & Kollegen Attorneys at Law have many years of experience in advising and representing companies in criminal law matters and possess comprehensive know-how in criminal and administrative fine investigations, both in terms of personnel and expertise, in order to coordinate legal advice, coordination and defense with you and to find the best possible solution.
Criminal Complaints and Representation of Injured Parties
You have become a victim of a crime as a natural or legal person? As an aggrieved person, we will gladly accompany you through the extensive and complex criminal proceedings process
– from the drafting of the criminal complaint and the associated notification of the criminally relevant facts to the relevant investigating authority to the conclusion or discontinuation of the proceedings. We represent your procedural rights and support you in claiming them.
We support you in every phase of investigation, criminal or regulatory proceedings. We represent and support you in investigations led by the public prosecutors or the tax authorities, as well as in disciplinary proceedings and at trial in court, regardless of whether you need a defense attorney, witness assistance or individual counsel.
With our many years of forensic experience in criminal, tax and professional disciplinary proceedings we support you at every step of the legal procedure. Contact us at any time in the event of searches, arrests, interrogations, requests for information or government inquiries, indictments or penalty orders as well as seizing of assets and any other investigative measures.
At times when company managers (board of directors, managing directors) as well as controlling bodies (supervisory board and board of directors) need a factual and value-neutral basis for their decisions (business judgment), internal investigations by external law firms or auditing companies are a recognised and necessary corporate measure.
Even if pressure to assume responsibility arises from other corporate bodies, when authorities, whistleblowers or even representatives of the media allege breaches of rules or inquire about such issues, internal investigations are the best - and often necessary - response. It ensures a discreet, efficient and focused investigation and protects against reputational damage. Particularly in the case of official investigation proceedings, it is in line with the requirement of due diligence on the part of a prudent and conscientious manager within the meaning of s. 93 (1) of the German Stock Corporation Act (AktG), s. 43 (1) of the German Limited Liability Companies Act (GmbHG), s. 34 (1) of the German Cooperative Societies Act (GenG) to clarify the necessary factual basis and legal requirements in order to be prepared for the decisions to be made in the proceedings. The supervisory and organisational duties set out in s. 130 OWiG (monitoring and control duties as well as sanctions in the event of non-compliance), which can be accompanied by a corporate sanction of up to EUR 10 million in accordance with s. 30 OWiG, may also require internal clarification in the event of suspicious cases.
Our law firm can look back on more than twenty years of experience in conducting such investigations for German companies in industry, banking, trade and the service sector. Companies are happy to commission us to conduct internal investigations on their own responsibility as well as to provide criminal law support, as we can quickly familiarise ourselves with the company-specific needs and thus offer the company a targeted, damage-limiting investigation.Thanks to our connections to auditors and specialised domestic and foreign law firms, e.g. in labor, data protection and tax law, the necessary investigative steps can be carried out comprehensively, yet quickly, in a coordinated and cost-efficient manner, taking into account the applicable law in each case.
Legal Opinions / Expert Reports
As legal experts, we support you and your company in identifying applicable legal regimes and provisions to be observed in your individual circumstances, e.g. in the planification and implementation of new projects.
Our goal is to provide you with a trustworthy assessment of a (criminal) legally relevant matter without losing sight of the economic interests of your company. By answering legal questions objectively and comprehensively, we support you both in setting a decisive course and in other decision-making processes in connection with the management of your company.
Due to the comprehensive and specialised legal knowledge and the expertise of our lawyers based on many years of professional experience, we will be glad to assist you in answering legal questions.
As external lawyers we offer your employees support as ombudspersons. A company’s employee may address an ombudsperson in cases of suspected corruption, tax fraud or other irregularities within the company. The external lawyer is able to guarantee confidentiality and full anonymity between the employee and the company.
We receive the reports of suspicious cases on behalf of the company. Our position as an independent contact partner – who guarantees confidentiality for internal and external whistleblowers – reduces the barriers for employees to report suspicious incidents.
In close consultation with the whistleblower and the company’s management, we agree on the further courses of action required within the framework of a company's self-image of integrity. As the ombudsperson, we provide support in the investigation of serious reports of misconduct and advise on responsible action after such allegations or suspicions have come to light.