Within the vast field of criminal law, our special expertise lies in the following areas:
Accountancy Criminal Law
Accountancy criminal law covers all kinds of irregularities in accounting amounting to criminal conduct, such as bookkeeping, entrepreneurial balance-sheets and annual accounts.
In addition, national and international standards need to be observed (DRSC, IAS/IFRS). Irregularities may arise from the so called “enforcement procedure” carried out by the German Association for the Inspection of Accounting (Deutsche Prüfstelle für Rechnungslegung e.V.). In case those irregularities raise the suspicion of criminally relevant conduct, the Public Prosecutor is likely to investigate acts committed by those responsible inside a firm as well as their tax consultants and auditors. We have particular expertise in accountancy criminal matters in assisting you with any arising issues or if necessary in investigations.
Antitrust Offences and Antitrust Criminal Law
Antitrust law contains a number of European and other provisions implementing fines for antitrust behaviour, e.g. in the German Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB) or in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Further sanctions for antitrust conduct are contained in the German Criminal Code (StGB).
Investigations in procurement law are particularly common in the construction and health industry following non-compliance with the requirements of public tender procedures. Antitrust authorities and public prosecutors conduct investigations against responsible individuals but also focus on companies for allegations of fraud, corruption or breach of trust, which may cause considerable risks.
Cartel law is particularly explosive due to the high fines imposed on companies, which can amount to up to 10% of the previous year's (group) turnover. In connection with this, the company must expect other consequences that are significant to its existence, such as registration in a public procurement and corruption register and the seizure of assets for skimming.
We offer advice at all stages of the proceedings, from examining the possibility to make use of a “leniency” programme, accompanying searches, to defending you in criminal and administrative proceedings, in order to ensure the best possible advice and defence.
Appeals and Constitutional Complaints
We have longtime experience in exercising legal remedies. If you wish to have your proceedings reviewed in court, we advise you on the chances of success, including proceedings at the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
We elaborate and lodge your applications and statements before all courts, including coordination with your previous or present counsel.
Banking & capital markets criminal law
The capital market is under constant surveillance by the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin). All stock market transactions will be checked as a matter of course as well as the annual accounts of banks.
Irregular or manipulated transactions or inaccurate depictions in the balance sheets fall not only under the investigation of the financial supervisory authorities, but also involve the linking in and cooperation of investigative activities by the public prosecutor's office. Where the public prosecutor investigators primarily play a major role are in the areas of fraud and breach of trust offences (ss. 263, 264a, 266 of the Criminal Code), market manipulation (s 20a of the German Securities Trading Act) and insider trading (s. 38 (1) of the German Securities Trading Act). Stock market-listed companies and banks must operate a regulated and proper information policy and communicate all personal and factual company facts at the right time. Otherwise, this may not only have an effect on the share price, but also on the existence of the company. In respect of companies that are also listed in the United States, we together with US law firms attend, support and coordinate in connection to the procedures of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as in connection with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Banking and Capital Market Criminal Law
The capital market is constantly monitored by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin). BaFin controls the proper conduct of all stock market transactions and banks‘ annual financial statements.
Irregular or manipulated sales, purchases or balance sheets may trigger investigations not only by BaFin, but also by the Public Prosecutor's Office. Both investigative authorities are closely connected and cooperate closely. Their main focus is on fraud and breach of trust, §§ 263, 264a, 266 of the German Criminal Code (StGB), market manipulation, § 20a of the German Securities Trading Act (WpHG) and insider trading, § 38 (1) of the German Securities Trading Act (WpHG). Companies and banks listed on the stock exchange must inform in a regular, timely and correct manner on all personnel and material facts of the company. Disregarding these requirements may have an impact on the company's price development and can in some cases even present a threat to its existence. For companies listed in the USA, we offer support and coordination in close cooperation with US-based law firms in proceedings of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), e.g. for allegations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Commercial Criminal Law
As a generic concept, commercial criminal law comprises all criminal provisions and administrative offences related to business operations.
Rules can be found in the German Criminal Code and special codes as well as in international rules, e.g. for punishing corruption, or in foreign national rules regulating the capital market. Please refer to the respective section for each subject matter for more details.
At the latest once the investigating authorities have initiated proceedings against individual corporate bodies or employees, it is the company’s concern – both through the full investigation of the facts of the case and its legal assessment – to gain an overview of the (allegedly) committed act.
This is not only a legal necessity but also reflects the company’s understanding of its own integrity. A bilateral positive cooperation, hence a “win-win situation”, can often arise from close cooperation with the public prosecutor or the investigating professional governing bodies. On the one side the company is keen to clarify the case internally and to draw the appropriate inferences from the wrongdoing. This may result in personnel changes or the rethinking of the company's internal control mechanisms. On the other side there is for the investigating authorities a benefit in that they can gain comprehensive insights into business processes and arrive at a rapid clarification of the issues that require investigations.
Corruption and Bribery
Active and passive corruption is punishable under the German criminal code (StGB), in relation to public authorities (ss. 331 ff StGB) as well as between private business actors (ss. 299 ff StGB).
Legislation on punishable conduct has been enlarged worldwide in the past years, e.g. in the UK Bribery Act 2010 or the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. At the same time, investigative authorities have increased their respective attention and activity. Nowadays, acts of corruption in international business relations are punishable, as well as constellations which might be perceived as mere symbols of loyality or mutual appreciation. It is difficult to determine for a firm whether a precise invite, gift or other form of attention is legally classified as a socially acceptable act of personal or business relations or as a deliberate act of corruption. We support you in the preventive assessment as well as in ongoing investigations.
Data Protection Criminal Law
Data protection law has become increasingly important, at the latest by European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its implementation in German law. Due to technical progress, data processing plays nowadays a major role in business relations. A well-performing concept for data protection is thus an essential prerequisite for any compliance structure.
Violations of data protection law may entail severe punishment or high fines. We offer advice on how to comply with GDPR requirements for big companies as well as for single entrepreneurs, including the initial implementation of data protection systems and corresponding coaching of employees. Moreover, we work as external data protection officers and represent individuals in all stages of data protection proceedings, in particular before data protection authorities.
Environmental Criminal Law
We advise and represent clients in the field of environmental criminal law covering the fields of pollution control, waste management, nature conservation as well as noise protection.
Criminal provisions are contained in the German Criminal Code (s. 324 ff StGB) as well as in special legislative acts, penalising the pollution of waters, soil and air amongst others. Proceedings are often conducted against industrial plant operators who run a plant without proper permit or without ensuring proper handling of hazardous waste. Disregarding such provisions might lead to high fines and confiscation of profits for companies along with prison sentences for responsible individuals.
European criminal law
Not only commercial relations are governed by European law. EU directives and regulations are implemented in German criminal and regulatory law. Foreign trade law, regulatory law and environmental criminal increasingly include criminal and regulatory offences that make direct reference to EU regulations, and sometimes provide for considerable fines and other sanctions.
Particular expertise in the legal subject matter and in the underlying European legal framework are essential. Besides, EU criminal law plays an increasing role in >> extradition law and mutual legal assistance [link to that area of expertise]. Special organs have been created to investigate and prosecute some EU-specific crimes, such as the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), headquartered in Brussels. On the other hand, directives with the aim to strengthen the defence's rights have been put in place in recent years. Profound knowledge of the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg is therefore paramount for a comprehensive defence in these areas.
Moreover, human rights have gained importance, both on the EU-level and in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), with the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the recognition of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in EU law. In our team you will find specialised lawyers who are familiar with special features of EU law and with the jurisprudence in Luxembourg and Strasbourg. We help you to comply with the complex provisions of Europanising criminal law and to enforce your right to an effective defence in cross-border cases.
Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance
Judicial cooperation in criminal matters is not limited to the extradition of a suspect or witness interviews by or for foreign authorities. All forms of interstate cooperation in criminal matters are governed by this field of law and requiring extensive knowledge and experience.
In addition to extradition and transfers of persons through a European Arrest Warrant, this includes, for example, the following requests for investigative measure (e.g. cross-border telecommunications surveillance or the interrogation of suspects abroad), within the EU by means of the European Investigation Order, seizure and confiscation of assets (i.e. the “freezing” of bank accounts) international search requests from Interpol (so-called “red notices” or diffusions), which sometimes are issued in foreign countries on the mere basis that the concerned person cashed an uncovered cheque, as well as requests for the transfer of sentences, for example, where a sentenced person prefers to serve his or her sentence in his home country.
The interplay of bilateral, international and supranational legal instruments (framework decisions, directives, regulations) as well as national regulations makes this exotic subject matter a challenge for many legal practitioners, especially since the case law of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the European Court of Human Rights also needs to be taken into account.
Food Criminal Law
In recent years, investigative authorities have increasingly focused on crimes and administrative offences in food legislation.
Scandals involving “rotten meat”, salmonella or relabelling of expired products are only some examples for situations that, in legal terms, might amount to fraud or penalty provisions of laws regulating food products. In-depth knowledge of national as well as of European provisions on the subject matters is required.
The consequences for a company facing allegations of conduct violating food regulations can quickly present a threat to the company’s existence. Public media reporting may cause irreparable damages for relations with clients and suppliers. Official approvals or admission might be withdrawn at the same time. Claims for reparation and asset recovery may amount to economically unbearable financial charges. We support you with preventive advice as well as with representation in ongoing proceedings before investigative and judicial authorities.
Foreign Trade Criminal Law
Foreign trade law regulates economic transactions with foreign countries for reasons of economy, foreign policitcs and security policy.
The purpose of foreign trade law is to prioritise national interests as opposed to individual interests of traders. Legal standards can be found in the law of the European Union (EU) based on its exclusive competence to control foreign trade, e.g. in the Dual Use Regluation, in the German code implementing the common market organisation (MOG) for the import and export of market regulation goods, in the German code on the monitoring of criminal and other movement prohibitions (VerbrVerbG), in the Act on the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, in the German Narcotics and Foreign Trade Regulation (BtMAHV), in the German War Weapons Control Act (KWKG), in the German Act implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWÜAG) as well as in the German Act on Foreign Trade and Payments (AWG) and the German Regulation on Foreign Trade and Payments (AWV).
General criminal law
We consult and defend our clients not only in commercial criminal law and criminal tax law, but also in general criminal law and regulatory law, such as (negligent) bodily injury or homicide, robbery, extortion, coercion or narcotics offenses.
Criminal offences and misdemeanours in road traffic occur on a daily basis and are usually based on negligent conduct, e.g. overlooking a fire-lane entry while parking, disregarding a speed limit or a red light while being in a rush. Such conduct can be prosecuted under administrative or criminal law and can quickly cause not only financial costs but also significant impact on professional and private life e.g. by a driving ban or a withdrawal of the driving licence.
Some criminal offences can even be sanctioned with imprisonment, such as hit-and-run, drunk driving, endangering road traffic, negligent bodily injury or homicide in road traffic.offences, such as drink driving or hit-and-run.
Insolvency Criminal Law
To overlook one's finances and solvency is indispensable to successfully participate in business transactions. Relevant control mechanisms are calculations of loss and profit and the setting of balance sheets.
Correct accounting is a prerequisite for a firm to incur only obligations that can be fulfilled vis-à-vis creditors. For this purpose, the German Commercial Code (HGB), the German Code on Limited Liability companies (GmbHG) and the German Insolvency Regulation (InsO) set out a variety of obligations for business owners. As soon as a firm enters a state of financial crisis and can no longer fulfill obligations towards creditors, investigations need to be anticipated, e.g. for delayed filing of insolvency, s. 15a InsO, or bankruptcy, s. 283 ff of the German Criminal Code (StGB).
We offer advice and defence for all matters of insolvency or bankruptcy. In close cooperation with tax consultants and auditors, we are able to analyse the economic background and to review (incriminating) reports delivered by insolveny administrators or economic consultants with the purpose to guarantee to you our best possible support.
International Criminal Law
Globalisation entails the possibility to conduct criminal proceedings not only in the state where an offence was committed but also on an international level. Acts committed in Germany can be prosecuted and judged outside German territory.
International law has to be considered in cross-border activities, e.g. subsidiary companies or trade relations abroad. Cross-border crimes are typically encountered in corruption, Internet fraud, tax evasion, customs law, foreign trade law, war weapons control and many other fields. Besides the question of applicability of German criminal law according to the German Criminal Code (s. 3 ff StGB), expertise is required in >> extradition law and mutual legal assistance, e.g. in the German Act on International Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (IRG). Finally, the German criminal law systems claims universal applicability to all so called "core crimes", without requiring any factual link to Germany, under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Core crimes are defined for their special gravity and include genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Our experts are familiar with the German Code of Crimes against International Law (VStGB) as well as with the law of international criminal jurisdictions. We work both as academics and practicioners.
Internet/ Computer Criminal Law/ Data Protection
While almost not existing in the early 90s, the use of information technology and the internet nowadays form an integral part of private and professional activities.
To mirror this development, a number of new provisions have been adopted in German criminal law and caselaw has adjusted existing rules to the rapid changes and special needs of the digital age. Companies and individuals are more and more in touch with copyright and competition law, data spying, s. 202a of the German criminal code (StGB), betrayal of secrets, § 17 of the German Act against Unfair Competition (UWG), protection of privacy and personal rights, press law and fraud commited via digital means. We support you in all situations involving such allegations – be it in defence or for drafting and submitting a criminal complaint or in internal investigations against a third party to protect yourself or your company against the threats arising from media and electronic communication.
Labor criminal law
Labor criminal law is an interdisciplinary subject matter including violations of all laws related to the labor market that are punishable or subject to fines, in particular:
- Accidents at work,
- ”false“ self-employment,
- withholding and embezzlement of remuneration,
- violations of the German Trade Secrets Act,
- Illegal hiring out/assignment of employees,
- violations of the German Act to Combat Illegal Employment,
- breach of trust to the detriment of a company,
- violation of certain employer’s obligations and
- violations of the German Working Hours Act.
Investigators in labor criminal law use to focus on board members, managing directors, senior executives and other managers. Acts to the detriment of employers as well as to the detriment of employees are being investigated. Besides the provisions of core criminal law under the German criminal code, a large number of ancillary laws and special provisions need to be observed. Once a damage is claimed, professional crisis management needs to consider all subject matters involved. Often a company will be in need of comprehensive advice in order to avoid similar incidents in the future. Individuals need to be defended and impending consequences for the company to be averted at the same time.
Liability of Company Directors and Officers
For economically active companies, there is always the commercial risk of civil and criminal liability, also for the executive management.
In this regard certain commercial (criminal) law conditions should be kept in mind when developing both preventive and defensive strategies to take into account the special concerns of CEOs, boards of directors and supervisory boards.
Medical Criminal Law
New provisions have been implemented in the German criminal code in 2016, criminalizing active and passive corruption among medical and health care staff.
The scope includes forms of cooperation that have been legal so far, causing uncertainties for medical practicioners as well as for investigative and judicial authorities.
On the other hand, classical aspects of economic criminal law form an important part of medical criminal law, such as accounting fraud, breach of trust and penal provisions regarding certain substances, e.g. in the German Code on Narcotics (BtMG) or the German Codes on Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Products (AMG, MPG). Moreover, physicians may be liable for medical malpractice as well as for violations of the duties of organization and surveillance within organisational structures.
Due to increasing terrorist threats and associated European legal requirements as well as national adaptations, the issue of money laundering has gained increasing importance in recent years; not only for banks and financial institutions, but also for all other companies – so called good traders – the prevention of money laundering as part of corporate compliance now rightly has a lasting importance in how commercial transactions are considered.
Cash transactions (including transactions by cash on delivery), doubts about the identity of the business partner or the beneficial owner, and other abnormalities in the relationship require a proper business process for dealing with indications for money laundering (suspicious transactions) to avoid the relatively severe sanctions.
Our firm has a long expertise in assessing and monitoring of suspicious transactions, defending against allegations of money laundering and the implementation of processes preventing money laundering. The implementation of proper corporate prevention procedures is far less expensive than is often assumed and much more cost effective compared to the consequences of not having any.
Professional law (auditors, tax consultants, lawyers, physicians amongst others)
We provide legal advice and defence for freelance professionals of all kinds, e.g. for auditors, tax consultants, architects, physicians, lawyers and journalists, both within their respective professional code of conduct and with regards to special criminal provisions.
For auditors, professional and criminal sanction proceedings have become increasingly important. Reasons therefore are various changes in professional law in recent years (amendments of the German Regulation on Auditors, WPO) as well as to the commonly perceived proximity to financial and other accountancy scandals.
In medical criminal law, we represent companies in the pharmaceutical and medical sector as well as individual physicians and pharmacists in allegations of corruption, breach of trust, fraud and billing irregularities.
In the field of compliance, we provide comprehensive preventive advice to entrepreneurs and company managers on the requirements and the fulfillment of a necessary and appropriate compliance management system (CMS).
We further advise on how to attain compliance with the standards of the Institute of Public Auditors in Germany (IDW PS 980) and the International Quality Standards ISO 19.6001 and ISO 37.001. We are experienced in the evaluating pre-existing CMS and support you in assessing your CMS together with our cooperation partners.
We provide comprehensive legal advice on increased due diligence requirements as well as on criminal law risks in business transactions and competition, on foreign trade and tax matters, manufacturer liability, duty of care obligations and supervisory duties as managing director or member of an executive or supervisory board. In ongoing investigations, we act both as corporate counsel for the company as well as coordinators for the crisis management. Upon request, we will cooperate with your internal audit department, your compliance department or your auditors and tax advisors, adopting an interdisciplinary approach. We support you in analysing risks in your business operations and in implementing compliance measures.
The subject matter has gained importance not only in Germany but also abroad, especially in US-American, British, and European jurisdictions. We therefore work for companies and auditing firms regularly also in cross-border cases.
Tax Criminal Law and Voluntary Disclosure
Tax criminal law is one major category of economic criminal law covering all penal provisions in tax law.
Tax evasion under s. 370 of the German Fiscal Code (AO) is the most relevant allegation in practice. In the past years, tax authorities have attracted public attention by investigating cases of false statements on or non-disclosure of relevant facts in declarations to be made to financial authorities. The German Federal Court of Justice in its latest jurisprudence has pointed out that it does not consider tax evasion as a trivial offence and that it might sentence to imprisonment without parole. Many self-denunciations, s. 371 AO, have been registered, trying to avoid criminal investigations. However, the German regulation has been subject to considerable restrictions, increasing the importance of prevention through well-founded advice.
We advise and defend you an all matters of tax criminal law and related administrative offences. Our close cooperation with tax consultants and auditors guarantees your best support in this complex and constantly changing legal area.
We also represent you in proceedings before the financial authorities or financial jurisdictions, which might be necessary to prevent the binding effect of tax assessments or to ensure your solvency by requests for suspension of enforceable decisions.