17th August 2021
New milestone law will see CEA crack down on larger scale and more complex breaches of company law
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, and Minister of State with responsibility for Company Law, Robert Troy TD, have secured Government approval to publish the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021, which will transform the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into a statutory and independent agency with additional resources to investigate and prosecute white collar crime.
The Tánaiste said:
“This Bill when enacted will be a milestone in the area of corporate enforcement in Ireland. The new Corporate Enforcement Authority will have more autonomy and resources to investigate suspected wrongdoing and to deal with larger, more complex investigations.
“With new technology and more sophisticated economic crime, it is more important than ever that we have a well-resourced, standalone agency, to identify those non-compliant with company law. The new CEA will tackle allegations of company law breaches and investigate alleged criminal activity in the areas of fraudulent trading and dishonest dealings before a company becomes insolvent among other breaches of company law.
“We have seen how intricate and complex some of these breaches can be and how hard it is to secure prosecutions. As a statutorily independent agency, the CEA will have more autonomy to recruit the specialist staff it needs. My Department will continue to work with the new CEA to ensure it has the appropriate legislative tools to undertake corporate law enforcement.
“I am pleased that this new Authority will have all the necessary human resources required, both Civil Service and members of An Garda Síochána, to pursue breaches of Company Law. 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 CEA. The permanent complement of members of An Garda Síochána will double from seven to 16 and so the CEA’s total headcount will have increased nearly 50% over existing levels.”
It is intended that the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 will be introduced to the Houses of the Oireachtas in September 2021.
Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy TD said:
“White-collar crime is a menace to society, with huge consequences for the economy - both nationally and internationally. Consumers and businesses need to have confidence that alleged breaches of company law will be effectively investigated and prosecuted. Now that we have secured Government approval, we can further progress the establishment of an independent and strengthened Corporate Enforcement Authority.
“This legislation has been in development since the Government adopted a package of measures to enhance Ireland's corporate, economic and regulatory framework in October 2017. The establishment of the Corporate Enforcement Authority is an important part of that plan, as well as a key commitment in the Programme for Government, and was further reaffirmed by the report of the Hamilton Review Group late last year.
“This Bill further strengthens Ireland’s regulatory framework for the conduct of business, and I would hope that it could be enacted in the Autumn session paving the way for the establishment of the CEA next year.”
Notes to Editor
Details of Bill
The Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 establishes the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as a standalone statutory body with a commission structure, to be called the Corporate Enforcement Authority (CEA). It has been drafted on the basis of a General Scheme approved by Government in December 2018.
The Bill invests the CEA with the same functions and powers that the Director of Corporate Enforcement has with some modifications to reflect the new commission structure. These include encouraging compliance with the Companies Act 2014, investigations of suspected offences and non-compliance under that Act, prosecution of summary offences, referring indictable offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the exercise of certain supervisory functions with respect to liquidators and receivers.
The Bill provides for up to three full time commissioners, entitled Members, one of whom would be designated as Chairperson of the CEA. It is designed to give the new Authority the flexibility to structure itself in future to meet the differing and evolving demands of its remit, which includes investigation, prosecution, supervision, and advocacy, and along clear lines of responsibility.
The Bill gives the CEA the ability to appoint its own staff. As for the ODCE, there is provision in the Bill for secondment of Gardaí to the CEA. The Bill also includes a section on the accountability of the CEA to Oireachtas Committees.
It is planned to publish the Bill over the coming weeks.
The Government continues to work on new measures to tackle economic crime and corruption in particular through the cross-Government Implementation Plan arising from the report of the Review of Structures and Strategies to Prevent, Investigate and Penalise Economic Crime and Corruption (Hamilton Review Group) led by the Minister for Justice. So new powers and other enhancements for the new Authority are matters that will continue to be actively considered.
In preparation for the establishment of the CEA, the budget of the ODCE has been increased by circa €1 million and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment approved sanction for 14 additional civil servants to be assigned to the Authority to enable it to undertake its new functions. This represents an increase of 20% in the level of funding to the ODCE and an increase of 35% in the number of civil service staff.
The importance of adequately resourcing the CEA is also set out in the Implementation Plan arising from the Hamilton Review Group. The Implementation Plan commits to identifying the relevant Garda resources to be seconded to ODCE/CEA.
The Government decision supports additional Garda Síochána resources being made available to the CEA based on the CEA’s statutory functions, the CEA’s assessment of its resourcing needs and Government’s vision for the new Authority. The members of An Garda Síochána assigned to the CEA will increase from 7 to 16. The total increase in the overall headcount for the new CEA will be nearly 50% over previous levels.
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