The Government will soon publish proposed legislation under the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 (‘the Bill’) which includes the establishment of a new Corporate Enforcement Authority (‘the Authority) in Ireland.
The Bill was drafted based on a general scheme that was approved in 2018 and if enacted, it will turn the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (“ODCE”) into a statutory and independent agency giving it more resources to investigate and prosecute white-collar crime.
The additional functions of the Authority will include ensuring compliance with the Companies Act 2014 (“the Act”), investigating instances of suspected offences under the Act, prosecution of non-compliance with the Act by way of summary proceedings, referral of indictable offences to the Director of Public Prosecution, exercising of supervisory functions with respect to liquidators and receivers.
The Bill allows for the appointment of three full-time commissioners, or members, one of whom will be the chairperson of the Authority; a similar structure to that of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The Bill will also enable the Authority to appoint its own staff.
Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, commented; “With new technology and more sophisticated economic crime, it is more important than ever that we have a well-resourced, stand-alone agency, to identify those non-compliant with company law,”. This is an crucial aspect of the Bill as criminal investigations into corporate affairs are often complex, lengthy and require specialist oversight.
Rigorous standards and due process within investigations will create an intense and specialist workload, particularly in response to likely court challenges. The Bill also includes a provision for members of the Garda Siochana to be seconded to the Authority to lend their relevant experience and skill set.
The Government’s approval of the Bill is timely against the backdrop of a likely significant increase in corporate insolvencies resulting from the pandemic. “Already, the budget of the ODCE has been increased by 20% or €1 million to €6.057 million and my Department has sanctioned 14 additional staff to be assigned to the Authority,” the Tánaiste said.
“The permanent complement of members of An Garda Síochána will double from seven to sixteen and so the Authority’s total headcount will have increased nearly 50% over existing levels.”
The Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 will be introduced to the Houses of the Oireachtas in September.
About the author: Katie Oakes, Solicitor on the Corporate and Commercial Team.