Third Country CCP Supervision as a Catalyst for More Centralized EU CCP Supervision?
In early 2022, a UK CCP canceled some $4 billion of transactions in the war-affected nickel market, triggering outrage from market participants that were in the money. The ‘nickel debacle’ illustrates that CCP risk management and loss absorption mechanisms may result in value redistribution among stakeholders. With CCP stakeholders located in multiple jurisdictions, crisis management decisions from a single-jurisdiction CCP supervisor may not pursue multi-jurisdictional financial stability or a fair balance of stakeholder interests across jurisdictions. Although the case for centralized supervision of EU CCPs thus appears strong, national concerns have persistently blocked increased centralization. This paper re-examines decentralized EU CCP supervision in light of the much-debated post-Brexit centralized EU supervisory regime for systemically important third country CCPs. Two new arguments emerge from this juxtaposition, revealing a dichotomy between the named supervisory regimes that appears hard to justify. First, a decentralized supervisory regime for EU CCPs is difficult to logically square with the policy arguments underpinning the post-Brexit EU supervisory system for systemically important third country CCPs. Secondly, the controversial location policy for ‘too systemically important’ third country CCPs could be more justifiable if the EU were to adopt centralized EU supervision of systemically important EU CCPs.
Working paper is available here.
The use of artificial intelligence in corporate decision-making at board level: A preliminary legal analysis
Praised popular applications of artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT are merely a demonstration of AI’s potential in the business world. AI is on the verge of assuming a common role in the management of companies, since its steady emergence as a support tool for the administrative and judgement work of directors and managers. While only a handful of companies worldwide have attempted to appoint a robo-director, the general use of AI in corporate governance has proven to rationalize board decision-making, challenge groupthink and strengthen the independence of directors. Contrastingly, company law frameworks around the world remain rooted in exclusively human decisionmaking and deny the role of technology in corporate governance, resulting in inefficient regulatory strategies with regard to AI systems bestowed with governance powers. As a result, uncertainty exists about the legal permissibility and legal consequences of the implementation of AI in the corporate realm, which could discourage corporations from adopting AI, in spite of the technology being likely to enhance the business judgement of
Therefore, this paper attempts to highlight the growing importance of AI in corporate governance by classifying its gradual levels of autonomy vis-à-vis the board of directors. Then, this paper proceeds to make a preliminary legal analysis of the potential roles of AI in the management of memberless entities, leaderless entities and traditional corporations. The strongest focus of this paper lies on fundamental questions of corporate law pertaining to the delegation of decision rights to AI, the full replacement of human directors by AI, the required human supervision of AI and the attribution of liability for algorithmic failure.
Some thoughts on the regulatory use of tort law in a corporate context
This paper is the draft version of Hans De Wulf's contribution to the now already published Liber Amicorum Xavier Dieux. It is a very essayistic text, as is allowed in a Festschrift. In it, Hans De Wulf argues that tort law is being transformed from a mechanism to award damages into a regulatory tool that can be used by judges to create new rules that they then enforce against corporations (always at the request of a plaintiff, of course). This development is only possible because some - the Dutch legal system is a primary example - have transformed the concept of negligence from a standard, i.e. a yardstick to measure and judge behaviour, into a duty to at all times behave with due care, and have allowed private plaintiffs who have not suffered any damage (let alone even argued about causality), but who have at best been exposed to a risk, to enforce this new-found duty.
Hans De Wulf argues the first instance decision in the Dutch climate litigation against Shell is an illustration of the excesses to which this can lead; I argue this Dutch court decision would in Belgium be incompatible with our statutory provisions on tort law, and would be unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers by creating and allocating a new subjective right on the basis of a political balancing of interests which the court misleadingly tries to present as the mere application or enforcement of a pre-existing human right (right to life which entails right to a climate that does not heat up too much).
In the contribution Hans De Wulf also offers some (again, essayistic) thoughts on the ideal distribution of liability between companies on the one hand and their directors and managers on the other. Hans De Wulf discusses the circularity problem and whether it can be solved by concentrating liability exclusively on directors/managers instead of on the corporation. This seems to be necessary if one seriously thinks tort law and enforcement in general can have preventive(prophylactic, ex ante) behavioral effects, an idea for which there seems to be, however, little empirical proof.
Hervorming fiscaal regime auteursrechten en naburige rechten: een hobbelige weg back to its roots?
Dinsdag 6 december 2022 wordt in de Commissie Financiën het ontwerp van programmawet besproken. Dat bevat o.m. een hervorming van het fiscaal stelsel voor
Het ontwerp voorziet, naast het bestaande absolute drempelbedrag, in nieuwe relatieve beperkingen. Die maken een onderscheid naargelang de rechten al dan niet worden overgedragen n.a.v. een "geleverde prestatie".
Die nieuwe bepalingen kunnen echter voor rechtsonzekerheid zorgen. Kunnen vergoedingen, n.a.v. een opdracht, nog volledig als een roerend inkomen kwalificeren? En wat indien de prestatie niet wordt vergoed, of er zelfs geen prestatie is?
In een extract van een nieuwe Working Paper onderzoekt Gauthier Vandenbossche de draagwijdte van de nieuwe bepalingen. De volledige Paper, met een grondige analyse van de nieuwe belastingregeling, volgt later.
Fostering Sustainability in the Netherlands: Companies, Ownership, Engagement, Finance and Products
This paper addresses several European regulatory developments in sustainable finance and its transposition and implementation in the Netherlands. First it is discussed how sustainability is embedded in the Dutch corporate governance framework. The stakeholder approach has long been adopted into Dutch company law, however, recently, pressure from various stakeholders that sustainability should be included in the execution of the duties of the board of directors is increasing. Next, it reports the sustainability requirements of the financial entities and the state of the art of the (disclosures of the) financial products sustainability specifications. The AFM-studies show that significant progress has been made to adequately inform the financial end-investor, but also that the quality of information (and the sustainable financial investment process) can be further increased. However, it has been found that not all end-investors can fully and sufficiently qualify the disclosed information. The road to a sustainable society has started but there is a long way to go.
The long-term shareholder versus the engaged shareholder
According to the European Commission it is of importance to build a long-term relationship between the shareholders and their investees because so-called short-termism is endangering the capital market. The Commision endorses «long-term engaged share ownership under which shareholders effectively hold the board accountable for its actions». Both companies as well as many of their investors, report (extensively) about their relationships and contacts. However, this information addresses the current relationship between these parties. Little is known whether and which shareholders effectively develop a long-term relationship with the company. Neither is much known whether the behavior of “long-term” investors differs from short-term investors. In this paper I analyze whether institutional investors make use of a “buy and hold” practice or apply a “hit and run policy” in large Belgian companies. Second, I study whether the voting behavior of the different types of investors (short and long(er)-term investors) differs.
Schending van de belangenconflictregeling voor bestuurders leidt niet automatisch tot nietigheid van de bestuursbeslissing
Dit is een bespreking van het Cassatiearrest van 9 december 2021. Dat arrest handelt over de mogelijkheid voor een NV om, op basis van art. 7:96 § 2 WVV, de nietigheid te vorderen van een bestuursbeslissing wanneer het bestuur de belangenconflictprocedure uit art. 7:96 § 1 WVV niet (volledig) heeft nageleefd. In navolging van de stichter van het Instituut Financieel Recht, Eddy Wymeersch, oordeelt het Hof van Cassatie dat de nietigheid niet kan uitgesproken worden wanneer de feitenrechter vaststelt dat de naleving van de belangenconflictprocedure geen verschil had kunnen maken, dus geen invloed op de besluitvorming had kunnen hebben. Terwijl Wymeersch (De belangenconflictregeling in de vennootschappen, Maklu, 1996, nr. 71) enkel wou verhinderen dat nietigheid werd uitgesproken wanneer alleen maar de openbaarmakingsverplichtingen (melding aan de algemene vergadering, opname van notulen in het jaarverslag) niet werden nageleefd, laat het Hof van Cassatie ten onrechte ruimte aan de feitenrechters om ook andere “procedurefouten” als “zonder invloed” te kwalificeren.
De noot legt uit dat het Hof van Cassatie een weliswaar niet volledig onverdedigbaar arrest over een betwiste rechtsvraag heeft geveld, maar dat het arrest niettemin positiefrechtelijk verkeerd en beleidsmatig te betreuren is.
In elk geval zal ook na dit arrest een rechter nooit uit de feiten kunnen en dus mogen afleiden dat de deelname aan de besluitvorming van een bestuurder die krachtens de wet van deelname uitgesloten was, geen invloed op de besluitvorming heeft kunnen hebben.
Deze WP bevat de draft versie van een noot die bij het cassatiearrest zal verschijnen in TBH 2022/10.
Shareholder inspection rights in Belgium: unpopular or unnecessary?
In this Working Paper Hans De Wulf dicusses the rules and relatively rare case law on shareholder inspection rights, allowing minority shareholders to inspect corporate documents, often in preparation for a derivative claim. It argues courts should not demand that plaintiffs show the "discovery" pursued during the inspection procedure could potentially be useful for a subsequent claim. Rather, the procedure should be considered as a stand-alone check on directors at the disposal of minority sharheolders.
Aansprakelijkheid voor onrechtmatige uitkeringen aan de aandeelhouders
Het hoofddoel van deze bijdrage is een vergelijking te maken van het nieuwe regime inzake aansprakelijkheid voor onrechtmatige uitkeringen aan de aandeelhouders in de BV met het ongewijzigd gebleven regime ter zake in de NV. Volgens sommige commentatoren zou het gras in de oude “NV-weide” op dit punt heel wat groener zijn dan in de nieuwe “BVweide” aan de overkant. Zoals dat wel vaker het geval is, blijkt, na een grondige inspectie, het kleurverschil in de realiteit evenwel helemaal niet zo groot.
G 20/ OECD Principles of Corporate Governance – Comments by Eddy Wymeersch
In this public consultation, the OECD seeks to benefit from a wider input from the public in order to achieve a statement optimally reflecting ideas developed in the numerous studies and reflections about the future of private companies and the way these should be managed. The Principles are addressed to policy makers: apart from the case when the principles have been translated in legal rules, some of the Principles are to be included in the companies’ corporate governance codes, but other remain in the status of unwritten standards. Only legal rules are fully binding.
In general the Principles deal with prominent corporate governance issues and indicate for most of these a way forward, which looks convincing. The present paper focuses on the issues where the Principles could usefully be complemented by issues which came forward more recently, or can be considered lacunae in the present presentation.
The Principles are adressed to private companies traded on public markets, but are equally of importance for the many unlisted companies, and even other bodies – such as the state owned economic enterprises which exercise central functions in our societies, eg the railways. The corporate governance principles may be equally applicable to these entities and a similar reflection as developed in the Principles would be of great importance.
According to the accounting directive companies will include the corporate governance statement in their management report. That statement shall be included as a specific section of the management report and shall contain at least the information listed in article 20 of that directive. Some of this information will be subject to external review by the auditor.
Securities lending as a barrier to (or an instrument for) shareholder activism and the role of intermediaries as lending agents
This paper discusses the corporate governance implications of securities lending transactions in the European Union, in particular with regard to the exercise of voting rights by activist shareholders. When shares are on loan, both sides of the lending equation (i.e. that of the lender and the borrower) affect the exercise of voting rights: lenders must recall lent out shares in a timely manner if they do not want to lose the voting rights attached to them, and borrowers may employ stock borrowing practices to increase their voting power and manipulate voting outcomes. By analysing legal doctrine, consulting with practitioners and examining recent securities lending cases (such as Mediobanca/Generali), this paper highlights the ongoing risks that stock lending poses to corporate governance. Techniques such as negative risk-decoupling, record date capture and empty voting are analysed from the perspective of stock lending. It is found that securities lending can be as much a barrier to activism as it can be used to the advantage of activists. As a conclusion, some recommendations and guidelines for future regulation are included.
The Future of Centrally Cleared OTC Derivatives Markets
Financial markets are in constant flux. New players and services, often leveraging new technology, emerge and challenge the status quo. Changes in markets, regulation, the environment, and global politics affect the business and risk profiles of financial market participants. The central clearing sector is no exception to this. Moreover, with its crucial position as bulwark against systemic instability, the central clearing sector sits at the heart of modern financial markets and is particularly exposed to the speed of the ever-evolving financial system. Based on recent evolutions and policy initiatives, this paper aims to formulate conjectures about the directions in which centrally cleared over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets may develop in the future. Given the inherently forward-looking nature of this paper, our analysis is necessarily limited in that it employs incomplete information about the future in an attempt to map future risks, challenges, and opportunities in centrally cleared OTC derivatives markets. The paper is structured around (i) emerging risks (cyber risk, environmental risk, new technologies, and legal risk); (ii) challenges that come with the friction between an increasingly cross-border market for centrally cleared OTC derivatives and a regulatory and supervisory approach towards CCPs that has remained largely domestic or regional; and (iii) potential future directions for CCP governance.
Working paper is available here.
Meer mogelijkheden tot bevrijdend betalen zonder cash
De wet van 17 maart 2022 houdende diverse fiscale bepalingen en fraudebestrijding creëert voor ondernemingen de verplichting om, wanneer de betaling in euro in gelijktijdige fysieke aanwezigheid van de consument en de onderneming plaatsvindt, aan de consument een elektronisch betaalmiddel ter beschikking te stellen. Op die manier speelt de wetgever in op een evolutie waarin steeds minder cash wordt gebruikt en consumenten steeds vaker een beroep willen doen op elektronische betaalmiddelen om zich van hun schuld te kwijten. In deze bijdrage gaan dr. Evariest Callens, prof. dr. Reinhard Steennot en Niels Rogge na wanneer precies een schuldenaar zijn schuldeiser kan dwingen om een ander betaalmiddel dan cash te aanvaarden. De nieuwe regelgeving komt aan bod na een overzicht van de klassieke principes (en uitzonderingen daarop).
Derivative Contracts in EU Law: Never Mind the Definition
Trillions of euros change hands through derivative contracts every year. Although economically valuable for risk redistribution purposes, derivatives may also pose grave threats to financial stability, having led Wall Street magnate Warren Buffett to dub them “financial weapons of mass destruction”. In line with international policy initiatives after the 2008 financial crisis, the EU co-legislators have sought to mitigate the potential destructive effects of derivatives through a host of far-reaching legislative interventions (e.g. mandatory usage of central counterparties (CCPs)). To determine the scope of application of these legislative initiatives, the definition of derivatives is of pivotal importance. Although a strand in legal scholarship has aimed to map the conceptual properties of derivatives, the derivatives definitions that have been conceived by the EU colegislators to demarcate the scope of recent legislative interventions have received virtually no attention. This paper seeks to fill this gap. Through a combination of conceptual and regulatory analysis, the paper develops two new arguments. First, it argues that derivatives definitions in EU law do not identify any distinctive conceptual properties of derivatives and, instead, only provide a circular description of what derivatives may be. Secondly, it submits that this conceptually unsatisfactory approach is symptomatic for a more fundamental deficit in the conceptual underpinnings of derivatives. By exploring the relation between the derivatives definitions in EU law and the conceptual properties of derivatives, this paper seeks to uncover some of the conceptual impurities in the premises on which the major overhaul of EU derivatives legislation has been built.
Paper is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4096694.
De brievenbusvennootschap aan banden: antimisbruikmaatregelen van internationaal privaatrecht
Het Belgisch Wetboek van Vennootschappen en Verenigingen bracht een belangrijke vernieuwing met zich mee op het vlak van het vennootschappelijk internationaal privaatrecht. De werkelijke zetelleer werd verlaten en vervangen door de statutaire zetelleer, waardoor men voortaan voor de bepaling van het toepasselijke vennootschapsrecht aanknoopt bij de locatie van de statutaire zetel. Deze overschakeling heeft tot gevolg dat oprichters of bestuurders zullen zoeken naar landen met lakse regels van vennootschapsrecht, om aldaar de statutaire zetel te (ver)plaatsen. Wanneer de vennootschap vervolgens haar voornaamste economische activiteiten verricht in een ander land dan dat van de statutaire zetel, komt een zogenaamde brievenbusvennootschap tot stand.
In deze Working Paper maakt Floris Mertens duidelijk dat België, Nederland, Duitsland, het Verenigd Koninkrijk en Zwitserland eerder wantrouwig staan tegenover het fenomeen van de brievenbusvennootschap. Hoewel dit vehikel een onvermijdelijk product van de incorporatieleer is, zou het ogenschijnlijk diverse misbruiken in de hand kunnen werken. Voormelde Europese landen trachten hier via tal van privaatrechtelijke antimisbruikmaatregelen aan tegemoet te komen. Dit lappendeken van maatregelen mist evenwel een zekere uniformiteit, gaat uit van een foutief misbruikbegrip, en is reeds talloze malen door het Hof van Justitie als onverenigbaar bevonden met de vrijheid van vestiging.
Oprichtersaansprakelijkheid wegens kennelijk ontoereikend aanvangsvermogen: kan de cijferberoeper als zondebok dienen?
In deze Working Paper annoteert Floris Mertens een vonnis van de ondernemingsrechtbank te Gent (afd. Dendermonde) van 18 oktober 2021.
Indien een vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid binnen de drie jaar na de oprichting failliet wordt verklaard, lopen de oprichters het gevaar om hoofdelijk aansprakelijk gesteld te worden voor een deel of het geheel van het netto-passief van de gefailleerde vennootschap. Hun aansprakelijkheid komt in het gedrang wanneer zij een kennelijk ontoereikend aanvangsvermogen voorzien hebben bij de oprichting, wat voornamelijk kan blijken uit het bewaarde financieel plan. De praktijk leert dat oprichters voor de opstelling van dit plan vaak een beroep doen op de beoefenaar van een cijferberoep. Bijgevolg rijst de vraag in welke mate deze cijferberoeper ook aansprakelijkheid kan dragen voor het kennelijk ontoereikend aanvangsvermogen dat mogelijks uit het financieel plan naar voren komt. Deze bijdrage toont aan dat de professionele zorgvuldigheidsplicht de cijferberoeper ertoe dwingt om enerzijds de door de oprichters aangereikte cijfergegevens in beperkte mate te controleren, en anderzijds een waarschuwing te verstrekken wanneer duidelijk blijkt dat de in het financieel plan voorziene middelen ontoereikend zijn om de beoogde activiteiten te verwezenlijken.
Duurzaamheid en vennootschapsrecht: ESG-aansprakelijkheid en de invloed van institutionele aandeelhouders
In deze Working Paper focussen Hans De Wulf en Louise Van Marcke op drie thema’s binnen het vennootschapsrechtelijke duurzaamheidsdebat. Ten eerste wordt geargumenteerd dat men nauwelijks enig effect mag verwachten van “stakeholderism” in de betekenis van het herformuleren van bestuurdersplichten of herdefiniëren van het vennootschapsbelang in de ijdele hoop bestuurders zo te dwingen meer aandacht te hebben voor andere stakeholders dan aandeelhouders. Ten tweede worden de verschillende technieken beschreven die institutionele aandeelhouders hanteren om duurzaamheidsthema’s bij ondernemingen op de agenda te plaatsen. Tot slot wordt ingegaan op het gebruik van het onrechtmatigedaadsrecht.
Unfair terms in non-consumer contracts – comparative analysis
In this Working Paper Simon Geiregat provides a scheme comparing the legal framework on unfair terms in non-consumer contracts in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. A comparison with harmonized EU law has also been added.
When applicable, comparisons with the rules on consumer contracts are marked.
Controle van het bestuur op de kwaliteit van een overnemer en diens debt push down in leveraged buy-outs?
Dit is de tekst van Hans De Wulf zijn bijdrage aan het Liber Amicorum Jean-Pierre Blumberg, dat in de herfst van 2021 bij Intersentia verscheen.
De tekst gaat uit van twee ophefmakende buitenlandse gerechtelijke uitspraken inzake debt push downs, de Amerikaanse Nine West-zaak en de Nederlandse Estro- zaak. Beide uitspraken hebben gemeen dat zij “standaarden” inzake behoorlijk vennootschapsbestuur gebruiken om bestuurders te wijzen op hun verantwoordelijkheden bij een overname van de vennootschap (bv. door een private equity-speler), ook wanneer zijzelf naar aanleiding van de overname uit het bestuur zullen verdwijnen, en met name wat de schuldenlast die op de schouders van de vennootschap wordt gelegd betreft. Hans De Wulf onderzoekt op essayistische wijze in welke mate zulke rechtspraak ook in België mogelijk zou zijn, als aanvulling op de technische wettelijke regels inzake financial assistance.
Zijn blijvende verschillen tussen NV en BV gerechtvaardigd?
Deze bijdrage zal in de eerste helft van 2022 verschijnen in TRV-RPS, in een nummer waarin een vijftal bestuurders van het Belgisch Centrum voor vennootschapsrecht hun mening geven over de vraag op welke punten het WVV misschien minder opportune keuzes heeft gemaakt/reeds voor wijziging in aanmerking zou komen. Elke auteur heeft een verschillend thema uitgekozen, in Hans De Wulf zijn geval de vraag of de verschillen in wetgeving tussen BV en NV gerechtvaardigd zijn.
Hans De Wulf argumenteert dat de verschillen in de winstuitkeringsregels voor BV en NV niet gerechtvaardigd zijn, en dat men met name ook voor de NV een schriftelijke liquiditeitstest in de wet had moeten inschrijven. Daarnaast bespreekt Hans De Wulf enkele kleinere ongerechtvaardigde verschillen (bv. waarom geen duaal bestuur toelaten in de BV ?) en stelt hij vragen bij de afbakening tussen de vennootschapsvormen, waarbij hij bijvoorbeeld ook kritiek heeft op het eenhoofdig bestuur bij de NV.
De maatschap : catch me if you can – Hoe rechtstheorie legitimeert maar niet fundeert
In de bijdrage wordt vastgesteld dat ook de maatschap, ondanks haar gebrek aan rechtspersoonlijkheid, een eigen vermogen heeft, maar in geen enkel opzicht een afgescheiden vermogen heeft.
Verder wordt geargumenteerd dat de wetgever iets te ver is gegaan door ook voor stille maatschappen te bepalen dat het maatschapsvermogen niet kan uitgewonnen worden door de persoonlijke schuldeiser van een vennoot.
Tot slot wordt verdedigd dat de wetgever beter de hervorming van het maatschapsrecht had gebruikt om de maatschap volledige rechtspersoonlijkheid te geven, met de transparantieverplichtingen die daarbij horen, maar met tegelijk de mogelijkheid, voor de oprichters, om de maatschap-rechtspersoon toch te onderwerpen aan een regime van fiscale transparantie.
Onrechtmatige bedingen in B2B-contracten: algemene en bijzondere regelen beperken wilsautonomie (steeds meer)
Bepalingen inzake onrechtmatige bedingen begrenzen de wilsautonomie waarover ondernemingen in beginsel beschikken bij het sluiten van een overeenkomst. Waar deze autonomie aanvankelijk enkel werd ingeperkt in de verhouding tot consumenten, stelt men vast dat sedert 1 december 2020 ook in de verhouding tussen ondernemingen onderling rekening moet worden gehouden met dwingende regelen ter bescherming van de zwakkere partij.
In de nabije toekomst zullen ook bepalingen die ogenschijnlijk betrekking hebben op oneerlijke marktpraktijken de wilsautonomie van ondernemingen verder beperken. Het is opvallend dat al deze bepalingen in het WER vervat liggen en niet in het (nieuw) BW. Meer en meer beïnvloedt het WER het verbintenissenrecht, zodanig dat experten verbintenissenrecht het niet meer zonder Boek VI van het WER kunnen stellen.
ESG en vennootschapsrecht: innig verbonden, maar ook duurzaam?
De tekst biedt een algemeen overzicht van de belangrijkste ontwikkelingen binnen Europa in de periode 2019-2021 op het snijvlak van ondernemingsrecht en environmental, social en governance-thema’s. Hans De Wulf had de eer de tekst te mogen voorstellen op de jaarvergadering te Amsterdam, in november 2021, van de Nederlandse Koninklijke Vereeniging Handelsrecht, en aldaar in debat te mogen gaan met Vino Timmerman en het publiek.
Na een uitgebreide inleiding gaat de tekst in op het 'corporate purpose'-debat, ESG-aandeelhoudersactivisme, de EU-initiatieven om openbaarmakingsverplichtingen rond duurzaamheid en verwante thema’s op een nieuwe leest te schoeien, due diligence van de waardeketen (ook bekend als human rights due diligence) en de evolutie naar 'ESG-aansprakelijkheid', uitmondend ineen fusie tussen mensenrechten en het onrechtmatigedaadsrecht, zoals geïllustreerd door het Haagse vonnis in de Shell Milieudefensie-zaak.
Inhoudelijk maakt Hans De Wulf onder nogal wat meer het punt dat het een onvruchtbare aanpak is te pogen ondernemingen tot meer aandacht voor andere stakeholders dan aandeelhouders te bewegen via een herformulering van bestuursplichten of invulling van het concept vennootschapsbelang of corporate purpose-verklaringen; dat het wel zinvol is aan ondernemingen human rights due diligence verplichtingen op te leggen, maar dat men dat dan via technisch behoorlijk geformuleerde, tot rechtszekerheid leidende wetgeving moet doen, kenmerken die ontbreken bij het ontwerp van Europese Richtlijn van het Europese Parlement van 10 maart 2021; en dat terwijl de Britse 'Vedanta'-rechtspraak te begroeten is (aansprakelijkheid van de Europese moeder voor eigen onrechtmatige daad die begaan wordt via de activa van een buitenlandse dochter), de Nederlandse Shell Milieudefensie-uitspraak vele bruggen te ver gaat, onder meer omdat zij uit niet-bindende normen een bindende gedragsnorm afleidt en op die manier de grens tussen het toepassen en afdwingen van het recht en het uitvinden van nieuwe rechtsregels, wat een prerogatief van de politiek is, ver overschrijdt.
Brève histoire du droit européen du crédit à la consommation : évolutions et perspectives
EU regulation of consumer credit has evolved considerably in past decades. New developments in this branch of the law can be expected, with the ongoing discussion of a proposed new directive on consumer credit by EU lawmakers.
In a new Working Paper FLI-member Dominique Blommaert and Prescillia Algrain discuss past and future trends in consumer credit law.
After an overview of the evolution of the EU legal framework towards consumer credit, the authors emphasize three significant trends : the clustering of EU litigation around issues related to the compliance of stricter national law with EU Law, movements in the legal scope of consumer credit and an enrichment of substantive law aimed at introducing consumer protection measures.
De tijdelijk hervormde gerechtelijke reorganisatie: soepeler, moderner, efficiënter?
Om het bestaande insolventierecht aan te passen aan de behoeften van de COVID19-crisis, voerde de wet van 21 maart 2021 “tot wijziging van boek XX van het Wetboek van economisch recht en het Wetboek van de inkomstenbelastingen 1992” een aantal (tijdelijke) aanpassingen en verbeteringen aan Boek XX WER door.
Vooreerst is de bedoeling van deze hervorming om de toegang tot de procedure van gerechtelijke reorganisatie te vergemakkelijken, in het bijzonder voor kmo’s. Verder wordt een nieuwe ‘voorbereidende’ procedure ingevoerd, die ondertussen zijn eerste toepassingen in de praktijk en rechtspraak kent. Tot slot worden een aantal punctuele aanpassingen gemaakt aan Boek XX WER.
De onafhankelijke bestuurder in de financiële instellingen – een medicijn tegen alle kwalen?
Deze bijdrage onderzoekt de positie en de werking van de onafhankelijke bestuurder in de governance van financiële instellingen, waartoe zowel banken (kredietinstellingen) en beleggingsondernemingen worden gerekend, als verzekeringsondernemingen en pensioenfondsen, naast andere. De onafhankelijke bestuurder heeft in het corporate governance debat en beleid gaandeweg een zeer prominente plaats heeft ingenomen en is – zo lijkt het wel – zelfs een magische oplossing is geworden voor ongeveer alle governance problemen.
Na een kort overzicht van de argumenten die worden aangevoerd om in financiële instellingen een ‘andere’, d.i. een van de niet-financiële sector verschillende governance-regeling in te voeren, worden de reglementaire bepalingen in het Europese en Belgische bank- en verzekeringstoezichtsrecht met betrekking tot de onafhankelijke bestuurder onderzocht.
Tenslotte worden enkele vragen gesteld bij de vele rollen die de onafhankelijke bestuurder in financiële instellingen dient op te nemen, en bij de vennootschappelijke en prudentiële verwachtingen die hieruit resulteren.
Het faillissement van bestuurders van rechtspersonen en onbeperkt aansprakelijke vennoten: licht aan het einde van de tunnel
Ingevolge de inwerkingtreding van Boek XX WER op 1 mei 2018 is het personeel toepassingsgebied van het insolventierecht aanzienlijk uitgebreid. Het gemoderniseerd ondernemingsbegrip, gebaseerd op zoveel mogelijk formele in plaats van materiële criteria, vervangt voortaan het handelaarsbegrip als centraal aanknopingspunt voor het toepassingsgebied van het commercieel insolventierecht. Elke natuurlijke persoon die zelfstandig een beroepsactiviteit verricht, elke rechtspersoon en iedere andere organisatie zonder rechtspersoonlijkheid is in beginsel een onderneming in de zin van artikel I.1, 1° WER. In de rechtspraak en rechtsleer gaf de categorie van natuurlijke personen echter meteen aanleiding tot toepassingsvragen- en problemen, zowel wat de faillietverklaring van bestuurders van rechtspersonen als vennoten van vennootschappen met onbeperkte aansprakelijkheid betreft. Bijna drie jaar na de inwerkingtreding van Boek XX WER lijkt zich stillaan een (duidelijke) lijn af te tekenen, die evenwel in bepaalde gevallen onbillijke gevolgen met zich meebrengt.
CSDs and the reform of the settlement process
The post-trade activities in securities has again raised considerable attention and discussions: recent public consultations of European Commission have resulted in a very active debate concentrating on three issues: new regime for settlement finality, with specific attention to the Buy-in process, the consequences of possible introduction of distributed ledger technology in the securities settlement process, and finality the widespread use of internalisation as a replacement to the CSDs. Overall, these discussions also result in a debate about the supervisory system. The debates on these topics are still open and are likely to keep us busy for quite some time. Therefore, this status questionis may be useful.
Schuldeisersbescherming in de BV na de afschaffing van het kapitaalconcept
Het Wetboek van vennootschappen en verenigingen (WVV) hervormt het BVBA-recht ingrijpend. Enerzijds wordt de flexibiliseringsgedachte die het hoofddoel van de volledige hervormingsoperatie van het vennootschaps- en verenigingsrecht is, in de context van de BVBA meer dan waar ook ten volle tot uitdrukking gebracht. Dit geeft aanleiding tot talrijke nieuwe mogelijkheden die op diverse plekken in dit boek aan bod komen. Anderzijds schaft het WVV voor de BVBA - die bij deze gelegenheid tot BV wordt omgedoopt - het integrale kapitaalconcept af. Onderhavige bijdrage concentreert zich op dit laatste aspect van de hervorming van het BVBA-recht. Na een beknopt overzicht van de motieven die aan deze radicale keuze ten grondslag liggen, worden de nieuwe bepalingen geanalyseerd die in de eerste plaats zijn gericht op de bescherming van schuldeisers na de afschaffing van de regelen inzake kapitaalvorming en -instandhouding.
Financial Instruments Entail Liabilities: Ether, Bitcoin, and Litecoin Do Not
The financial assets that are subject to major European financial legislation (i.e. (designated types of) financial instruments) have traditionally been defined in a largely exemplary and circular manner. The recent proliferation of non-traditional financial assets, such as cryptocurrencies and stablecoins, is increasingly challenging the viability of these pragmatic financial asset definitions. Through the analysis of the technologies and functionalities underpinning non-traditional financial assets, legal scholarship has aimed to categorize novel assets within the existing framework of financial asset definitions. Although a solid understanding of e.g. distributed ledger applications and cryptography appears a prerequisite for future policy and legislative interventions, contemporary European financial legislation is mostly indifferent to the technologies on which financial assets may be wired. Categorizations based on the purposes that non-traditional assets may serve (i.e. payment, utility, and investment) are more relevant to financial law, but suffer from subjectivity because they depend on the asset usage by the asset holder. Against this backdrop, this paper proposes a novel systematization of non-traditional assets that is based upon the conceptual substructure of the assets within scope of European financial legislation. More specifically, this paper submits that, irrespective of underlying technologies and functionalities, all assets that are subject to major European financial legislation have a conceptual common denominator: they entail the liability of an entity and, hence, have intrinsic value. The proposed categorization singles out a well-defined group of novel financial assets that is not subject to European financial law (i.e. assets that only have extrinsic value). Different from functionality- and technology-based categorizations, the suggested approach allows to eradicate ambiguities and potential overinclusiveness of functionality-based categorizations of non-traditional assets. By exploring the conceptual common denominator of the financial assets that are subject to European financial legislation, this paper aims to foster debate on the circular and exemplary character of financial asset definitions in European financial legislation in general and the relation of these definitions to novel types of financial assets in particular.
Working paper available here.
Related Party Transactions under the new Belgian Company Law
The Belgian company code of 7 May 1999 has been replaced by a new law dated 23 April 2019, entering into force on the 1st of May 2019. The new law is entitled: Code on companies, associations and divers provisions. This law has been the subject of amendments implementing a European directive which have been adopted by the Parliament by Law 28 April 2020.
The new law has modified the applicable legal regime on transactions by listed companies with other related companies, as defined in the International Accounting Standard 24. These transactions have to be submitted to a committee of independents directors, who may call upon the services of an independent auditors. Their report is submitted to the board for approval. There is no intervention of the general meeting. The perimeter of this regime has been described in very strict terms: all transactions of a value above 1% of the net assets have to be submitted to the committee's scrutiny. The law provides for sanctions: nullity for non-compliance or general liability of directors for violations of the law.
De maatschap: van contract naar instituut?
De bijdrage gaat in op de wijzigingen die de laatste jaren zijn aangebracht aan het juridische kader waaraan de maatschap zonder rechtspersoonlijkheid onderworpen is. Het WVV heeft zijn invloed gehad op de maatschap, maar ook een aantal nieuwe regels op het vlak van de boekhouding, de inschrijvingsplicht in het KBO en de registratie van uiteindelijke begunstigden in het UBO-register hebben belangrijke gevolgen voor de maatschap. In het licht van al deze zaken wordt nagegaan of de flexibele BV een alternatief kan zijn voorde maatschap die specifiek gebruikt wordt bij familiale vermogensplanning.
Volledige paper beschikbaar via: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3588824
Het nieuwe Wetboek van Vennootschappen en Verenigingen: overzicht en enkele pijnpunten
Deze bijdrage wil een overzicht geven van de belangrijkste hervormingen die het WVV met zich brengt. Verder wordt ook aandacht besteed aan een aantal belangrijke vragen inzake inwerkingtreding en het overgangsrecht en wordt stilgestaan bij enkele pijnpunten van het nieuwe wetboek.
Regulating distributions to shareholders through balance sheet and solvency tests: The Belgian and Dutch Example
In this paper, we intend to explore the optimal design of rules on distributions to shareholders. To this end, we commence by examining why and in what scenarios rules on shareholder distributions might be useful from a creditor protection perspective. Against this backdrop, we proceed by assessing the traditional continental approach and its net assets and retained earnings test. More specifically, we map out the benefits and drawbacks of the continental approach. Subsequently, we examine how the Dutch legislator has aimed to mitigate the downfalls of the traditional continental European approach by fundamentally altering its approach to shareholder distributions in closed companies. In a very similar way, we analyze the recent proposal from the Belgian legislator to amend the rules on distributions to shareholders. Finally, we assess to what extent the Dutch and Belgian approaches come close to an optimal regime for distributions to shareholders in closed companies.
Recalibrating the Debate on MiFID’s Private Enforceability: Why the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights Is the Elephant in the Room
The genesis of MiFID I initiated a fierce scholarly debate on the following question: does MiFID dictate private enforceability of the rules embedded in the directive? More specifically, under general reference to the effet utile doctrine, certain authors have argued that MiFID requires member states to provide private law remedies for infringements of certain (investor protecting) MiFID-provisions. However, another strand in legal scholarship has sternly denounced this idea. In their reading, member states might equally achieve an effet utile in light of the investor protection objective by solely providing administrative enforcement mechanisms. According to this vision, it is thus for the member states to decide whether, and if so under what conditions, private law remedies are made available. This debate has never resulted in a widely endorsed consensus and persists in the MiFID II era. My thesis, somewhat provocatively, is the following: legal scholarship has erroneously overlooked the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights when assessing the private enforceability of MiFID. As the Charter requires effective judicial remedies for violations of rights conferred upon individuals by EU law, I contend that its omission in the debate on MiFID's private enforceability has led to serious misconceptions about the enforcement of MiFID. Furthermore, in light of my paper's central thesis, I extend existing scholarship on MiFID's controversial paragraph about remedial action in a new direction. More specifically, I present two fresh textual arguments that might shed light on the meaning of this paragraph. The arguments, which - to the best of my knowledge - have not been advanced in legal scholarship before, draw upon an integrated and coherent reading of the text of MiFID II. More precisely, the novel arguments are based on the relation between the contested paragraph and the structure and wording of MiFID II as a whole.
Paper is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3362553
Financial regulation: its objectives and their implementation in the European Union
The financial activity in all its diversity and complexity is subject to an elaborate system of regulation and supervision. It is one of the most heavily regulated industries in our economies, as it touches on so many interests, whether at the individual level, or as part of the functioning of our economic systems and more generally, in today's worldwide economic and political relations. Interdependence of these different levels of regulation is an important feature and requires regulatory conditions to be analysed from different perspectives. The analysis should therefore first deal with the objectives of financial regulation in general, to be further supplemented and detailed with respect to the specific objectives in the European financial markets.
Het onderscheid vennootschap – vereniging na de invoering van het Wetboek van Vennootschappen en Verenigingen
Het Wetboek van Vennootschappen en Verenigingen dat op 28 februari 2019 werd goedgekeurd wijzigt de manier waarop profit en non-profit sector in België traditioneel van elkaar onderscheiden werden, althans voor juridische doeleinden. Terwijl de tekst van de VZW-wet uit 1921 een dubbel verbod voor verenigingen formuleerde, nl. een verbod om daden van koophandel te stellen en een verbod van winstoogmerk, blijft onder de nieuwe wetgeving slechts één wezenlijk kenmerk bestaan dat verenigingen onderscheidt van vennootschappen: vennootschappen kunnen alleen gebruikt worden indien het de bedoeling is om winst na te streven en die winst onder de vennoten te verdelen, terwijl verenigingen winst die ze maken onder geen beding mogen uitkeren. Er is geen onderscheid meer tussen vennootschap en vereniging op het gebied van de toegelaten activiteiten. Het aloude winstuitkeringsverbod voor verenigingen werd ogenschijnlijk wat aangescherpt door uitdrukkelijk in de wet te bepalen dat ook onrechtstreekse uitkeringen door verenigingen uit den boze zijn. Deze ingreep heeft voor ongerustheid bij de non-profit-sector gezorgd en deed de vrees ontstaan dat verenigingen die een voordeel voor hun leden opleverden, beschuldigd zouden worden van onrechtstreekse uitkeringen, met onaangename gevolgen op gebied van fiscaliteit (onderwerping aan de vennootschapsbelasting) en subsidies (intrekking) tot gevolg. Om aan deze bezorgdheid tegemoet te komen zijn een aantal aanpassingen aan de oorspronkelijke tekst van het voorontwerp van wet doorgevoerd die bedoeld waren als verduidelijkingen maar in de praktijk misschien eerder een verwarrend effect zullen hebben (we hopen van niet).
De kern van deze bijdrage bestaat er dan ook in te proberen verduidelijken wat het verbod van winstuitkeringen voor verenigingen precies inhoudt. We denken daarbij aangetoond te hebben dat voor een goed begrip van de nieuwe wetteksten, enige kennis van doctrinaire debatten over de betekenis van de wettelijke specialiteit van verenigingen onder het oude recht, nuttig of zelfs onontbeerlijk is.
Does Credit Intermediation Facilitate the European Internal Market for Mortgage Credit?
The European Mortgage Credit Directive (MCD) aims to create a Union-wide mortgage credit market with a high level of consumer protection. While focussing on the primary policy objective, i.e. facilitating the emergence of an internal market for mortgage credit, this paper analyses the MCD's regulation of the activities of credit intermediaries, and the rules on establishment and supervision of credit intermediaries in particular. As professional middlemen, credit intermediaries could reduce information asymmetries between on the one hand creditors and on the other hand consumers. Against the background of Fintech intermediary disruption and the increasing importance of digital distribution channels for financial services, our paper analyses whether and/or to what extent the MCD's prudential rules for credit intermediation qualify as true enablers for an Internal market for mortgage credit.
De implicaties van het wetboek van vennootschappen en verenigingen voor de opdrachten van de commissaris bij vennootschappen: enkele opmerkingen
Het Wetboek van Vennootschappen en Verenigingen beoogt zeker geen radicale omwenteling teweeg te brengen in de opdrachten van de commissaris, noch een andere dan de bestaande opdrachtverdeling tussen revisoren en andere economische beroepen. Toch kan men drie belangrijke nieuwe opdrachten voor de commissaris vaststellen: de beoordeling van het verslag dat het bestuur van een BV voortaan bij elke uitkering over de nieuwe zgn. liquiditeitstest zal moeten opstellen, de beoordeling van de cijfergegevens uit het verslag dat voortaan bij elke nieuwe uitgifte van aandelen verplicht zal zijn, en de tussenkomst bij inbrengen in nijverheid die nu bij de BV mogelijk worden. De eerste twee van die wijzigingen worden in deze bijdrage geanalyseerd, de inbreng van nijverheid zal op een andere bijdrage moeten wachten. Deze nieuwe tussenkomsten zullen de commissaris veel meer nieuw werk opleveren dan er verloren gaat door de afschaffing van de regeling van de quasi-inbreng in de BV (en dus ook van de tussenkomst van de commissaris). Daarnaast wordt kort stilgestaan bij de pogingen van de wetgever om de gebruikte bewoordingen bij de opdrachtomschrijvingen beter te laten aansluiten bij de concepten afkomstig uit de internationale normen (zoals ISAs en ISRE) en met name bij het onderscheid tussen beoordelingsopdrachten en controleopdrachten. Deze laatste soort ingreep is door de wetgever in overleg met het IBR doorgevoerd.
De handelsverplichting voor derivaten onder MiFIR
In deze bijdrage wordt de draagwijdte van de handelsverplichting voor derivatencontracten onder MiFIR onderzocht. Nadat in een eerste deel op functionele wijze het onderscheid tussen de verschillende handelsplatformen onder MiFID II wordt toegelicht, pogen we in een tweede en derde deel na te gaan welke marktparticipanten en derivatencontracten worden onderworpen aan de MiFIR-handelsverplichting. Daarbij beperken we ons niet tot het reguleringsniveau van de genoemde verordening (en richtlijn), maar besteden we ook aandacht aan de meer technische gedelegeerde verordeningen. Finaal exploreren we in welke mate publiek- en privaatrechtelijke mechanismen kunnen worden aangewend om de handelsverplichting af te dwingen.
A Capital Question. Should Shareholder Loans Be Automatically Subordinated
Whether or not shareholder loans should be automatically subordinated in bankruptcy is a much discussed topic in corporate and insolvency law. In this article I show that, because of the existence of non-adjusting creditors, shareholder-managers will sometimes have the incentive to take excessive risk. The subordination of shareholder loans forces the shareholder to internalize these costs. On the other hand, subordination of shareholder loans might also deter the undertaking of desirable projects. On balance, it is likely that subordination is efficient and reduces the agency cost of debt. Furthermore, I will show that shareholders should bear more risk because they are better monitors, do not suffer from information asymmetries and have higher expectations of default. Therefore, if shareholders and outside creditors could hypothetically bargain ex ante in a world without transaction costs on the rank of their debt claim, there is not much doubt that they would agree on subordination. Proving that subordination of shareholder loans is inefficient would imply that the subordinated position of equity is inefficient and further shake the concept of legal capital on its foundations.
Het vennootschapsrecht aan de vooravond van een fundamentele hervorming: een eerste overzicht en evaluatie
Brexit and the provision of financial services into the EU and into the UK
Brexit is likely to lead to the relocation of UK financial services firms to the EU in order to be able to access EU markets, mainly through the EU passport. The same applies to the EU firms intending to be active on the UK markets. The access conditions to the EU markets are numerous and complex, laid down in EU and national legislation and regulation, and applied by the national supervisory authorities. The European Supervisory Authorities or CESAs have published elaborate statements, called Opinions, on the detailed access conditions and the way they intend to apply these. The two main objectives are the full application of EU law, and the avoidance of authorising EU firms that would be empty boxes for activity that would in fact be exercised in the UK, and this mainly by delegating activities to another firm. Underlying is a policy of competition between national economies for relocations of EU firms, or of business activities to be developed on the UK financial markets.
Brexit and the Equivalence of Regulation and Supervision
After Brexit, the UK will become a third country. In the absence of a transitional agreement, its access to the EU markets will be conditioned on meeting the condition of "equivalence of regulation and supervision" as laid down in many EU regulations. Although in substance the UK regulations will be equivalent, the absence of a formal equivalence Commission decision may constitute a serious obstacle to the UK continuing to offer financial services on the EU markets. The consequences would be quite disruptive. An analysis of the different equivalence provisions reveals however a much more complex situation, indicating on the one hand that UK firms may continue to take part in the EU's financial markets through subsidiaries, on the other may offer their services to sophisticated investors, while in some cases equivalence will be in the hands not of the Commission but of the market supervisors, allowing for more flexible outcomes.
The consequences of Brexit for companies and company law
The consequences of the Brexit vote will be felt throughout the legal systems, both in the UK and in the EU. The legal consequences of the Brexit decision and the process which will lead to the withdrawal of the UK, raises numerous questions many of which are in the process of being analysed, and possibly solved. In the field of company law, with respect to cross-border matters, UK companies will be exposed to national laws in the EU States after the Treaty freedom of establishment will not further apply. This may lead to tensions between the two systems of recognition of foreign companies, i,e. the incorporation theory and the seat theory. Foreign companies active in seat jurisdictions may in the future be disqualified if their seat is effectively established in the seat State. Access may become more difficult, not on the basis of company law, but of sectoral regulations. In other part of the regulatory system, such as the rules on cross-border mergers, on rights of shareholders in listed companies, or disclosures to be made, equivalence of rules, as decided by the European Commission, will be the key factor. Additional issues will arise for the cross-border recognition of accounting standards and for the activity of auditors.
Shadow Banking and Systemic Risk
The consequences of the Brexit vote will be felt throughout the legal systems, both in the UK and in the EU. The legal consequences of the Brexit decision and the process which will lead to the withdrawal of the UK, raises numerous questions many of which are in the process of being analysed, and possibly solved. In the field of company law, with respect to cross-border matters, UK companies will be exposed to national laws in the EU States after the Treaty freedom of establishment will not further apply. This may lead to tensions between the two systems of recognition of foreign companies, i,e. the incorporation theory and the seat theory. Foreign companies active in seat jurisdictions may in the future be disqualified if their seat is effectively established in the seat State. Access may become more difficult, not on the basis of company law, but of sectoral regulations. In other part of the regulatory system, such as the rules on cross-border mergers, on rights of shareholders in listed companies, or disclosures to be made, equivalence of rules, as decided by the European Commission, will be the key factor. Additional issues will arise for the cross-border recognition of accounting standards and for the activity of auditors.
NOCLAR or How Accountants Deal with Suspected or Occurred Breaches of the Law
This paper gives an overview of the new international standard for accountants in case an accountant comes across or is informed that breaches of laws and regulations have been committed in the company he is auditing, or in which he is professionally involved. The standard mainly belongs to the International Code of Ethics, but is also dealt with in the International Standards on Auditing (ISA). It outlines the different steps the accountants should take, especially addressing the internal organisation of the company. If no result if obtained, he should determine whether, in the public interest, he should report to the authorities, taking into account a number of criteria. Documentation of these different steps is essential.
European Financial Regulation: how to make it workable
Everyone working in the field of financial regulation - but in other fields as well - is struck by the great number of documents that are being proposed or adopted in this field by the international institutions (FSB, BCBS, BIS, OECD, etc.), but even in greater quantity, by the European institutions. The present paper is aimed at exposing this problem and its increasing complexity, leading to a risk of destabilising the financial regulatory system, creating overlaps and gaps, and possibly engaging the liability of financial institutions. But the problem can be solved. The first and most practical solution consists of organising an integrated website where all texts of whatever nature are posted in a coordinated way, integrating the respective changes and the implementing documents, including level 3, q&a's, recommendations and other authoritative statements. As in many fields, national legislation remains applicable, it should be included.
An initiative from the European institutions would be most welcome.
Answering the Say for No Pay
Say on pay is considered an important tool to mitigate inappropriate remuneration practices. Over the years, many countries provided shareholders with this say on pay-tool, although often the vote is exclusively of an advisory nature. We analyse the regulatory framework of say on pay in two of these countries, the UK and Belgium. We provide evidence on the evolution of the dissenting votes of the remuneration report and identify the companies that experienced a disapproved remuneration report. We assess the effect of this dissenting vote by analysing the subsequent remuneration report and shareholders' vote as well as the evolution of the stock price. Although there are only limited guidelines how to address the dissenting vote and how to compile an adequate response, we found that many companies adjusted their remuneration practices, in particular the disclosing of pay-related information and amending bonus schemes. Remuneration levels are generally not adjusted. However, not all companies responded to the discontentment of the shareholders. The shareholders often positively react on the presented amendments in the subsequent vote of the remuneration report, but shareholder remain critical. Some subsequent shareholder approvals are hard to interpret. The research shows that say on pay positively affects communication between shareholders and companies but more is to be done on guiding the information exchange. We provide in a number of suggestions thereto.
Empowering the Audit Committee and the Auditor in Related Party Transactions
Currently, the European approach addressing related party transactions is exclusively relying on the disclosure and partial control of the transaction. Listed European corporations must provide in a (financial) summarized overview of these transactions that have taken place in the accounting period. The external auditor controls the transaction in so far it is fair and not misleading. The European Commission considers this approach insufficient to address the risk of extracting private benefits from the corporation and harming the other stakeholders, and in particular, the minority shareholders. The European Commission considers the implementation of an alternative strategy for related party transaction, mandating a disinterested corporate body to approve the self-dealing. However, I believe that the Commission's proposal will more than likely not overcome the major shortcomings of solely disclosing the transactions. I suggest involving the external auditor and the audit committee. The external auditor's duties can be broadened as to include the reasonable assurance that the envisaged related party transactions are economic fair transactions. Further the audit committee monitoring duties can include the work of the auditor regarding related party transactions. The audit committee can serve as the body that approves the related party transaction. This procedure can help to mitigate to overcome the negative effects of certain types of related party transactions.
Toepassingsgebied van het wetgevend kader voor de fondsensector in België na de AIFMD
Bij wet van 19 april 2014 werd de AIFM-richtlijn omgezet in het Belgisch recht. De impact hiervan op de fondsensector is groot nu een zeer breed gamma aan entiteiten en structuren die een beleggingsfinaliteit hebben, zoals hedge funds en private equity funds, dwingend onder een streng regelgevend kader worden gebracht. De centrale notie alternatieve instelling voor collectieve belegging is echter op basis van de gegeven definitie op zijn minst niet helemaal duidelijk. Het gevolg hiervan is dat bij een ruime interpretatie zo goed als iedere onderneming als een AICB kan gekwalificeerd worden. Om de betrokken actoren rechtszekerheid te geven is nochtans een duidelijk toepassingsgebied onontbeerlijk. In deze bijdrage wordt een algemeen overzicht gegeven van het toepassingsgebied van het nieuwe wetgevend kader voor fondsen in België. Specifiek wordt de notie AICB ontleed teneinde een beter begrip ervan mogelijk te maken.
Wet KMO-financiering: eerste analyse en breder perspectief
De Wet van 21 december 2013 betreffende diverse bepalingen inzake de financiering voor kleine en middelgrote ondernemingen (WKF) creeert een nieuw wettelijk kader voor kredietovereenkomsten aangegaan door ondernemingen bij professionele kredietgevers. Het belang van de WKF mag allerminst worden onderschat. De impact van de WKF is immers vergelijkbaar met wat de Wet Consumentenkrediet (WCK) voor kredieten aangegaan door consumenten heeft betekend.
Naast een duiding van de nieuwe regeling tegen haar ruimere beleidsmatige achtergrond, wil deze bijdrage de lezer een kritische analyse bieden van de WKF alsook een antwoord geven op diverse interpretatievragen.
(De definitieve versie van deze tekst wordt gepubliceerd in TBH 2015, afl. 4.)
Corporate Governance and Banks: How Justified is the Match?
Banks and bank governance are different. We critically assess the arguments used to pervade these divergences in operational activities. We also question if and how, in light of the specificity of banking activities, bank governance translates the operational peculiarities in different governance features. We hardly find convincing arguments for the bank governance specificities. We conclude that parts of the particular bank governance legislation and regulation misses appropriate justification, should be, at best, part of a general corporate governance code, and other mechanisms, like stringent capital requirements, are more adequate.
Audit Committees of Public Interest Entities in Europe
In 2014 the European Union reformed the regulatory framework of statutory audits in Directive 2014/56/EC and Regulation (EU) Nr. 537/2014. Part of the new legislation addresses the composition and responsibilities of the audit committee of public-interest entities. This contribution studies the innovations for audit committees. It is shown that many new requirements are very detailed and will force audit committees to develop new procedures. We fear that some of these new requirements are too prescriptive and will not necessarily reach the goal of better audits.
Het aandeelhoudersregister in Belgie en Nederland: toepassingsproblemen en voorstellen tot hervorming
Het is bedroevend gesteld met kwaliteit van de Belgische aandeelhoudersregisters. De vennootschapspraktijk blijkt immers allerminst diligent met het document om te springen. Nochtans kreeg het van de Belgische wetgever een belangrijke rol toebedeeld in het proces van de overdracht en overgang van aandelen op naam. De wetgever treft echter ook zelf schuld, nu veel vragen naar aanleiding van de overdracht en overgang van aandelen reeds sinds lang onbeantwoord blijven. In het Nederlandse recht is deze materie meer uitvoerig gereglementeerd. Desondanks blijken ook daar de toepassingsproblemen nog steeds talrijk te zijn en worden zij aangewend als argument ter ondersteuning van de invoering van een centraal aandeelhoudersregister. Deze bijdrage staat vooreerst stil bij de verschillende leemtes in de huidige Belgische wetgeving in dit verband. Vervolgens wordt nagegaan hoe de materie naar Nederlands recht wordt gereglementeerd en welke lessen daaruit voor Belgi kunnen worden getrokken. Tot slot worden een aantal concrete voorstellen tot hervorming geformuleerd, vertrekkend vanuit een veralgemeend gebruik van elektronische aandeelhoudersregisters.
(De definitieve versie van deze tekst werd gepubliceerd in T. Not. 2014, 688-729)
Audit Committees of Public Interest Entities in Europe
In 2014 the European Union reformed the regulatory framework of statutory audits in Directive 2014/56/EC and Regulation (EU) Nr. 537/2014. Part of the new legislation addresses the composition and responsibilities of the audit committee of public-interest entities. This contribution studies the innovations for audit committees. It is shown that many new requirements are very detailed and will force audit committees to develop new procedures. We fear that some of these new requirements are too prescriptive and will not necessarily reach the goal of better audits.
Het Hervormde Nederlandse BV-Recht Vanuit Een Belgisch Perspectief
Op 1 oktober 2012 trad in Nederland een totaal hertekend B.V.-recht in werking. Sindsdien wordt de Nederlandse tegenhanger van de Belgische BVBA vaak aangeduid als de Flex-B.V., wat meteen duidelijk maakt welke richting de wetgever met de hervorming is uitgegaan. Deze tekst wil in eerste instantie een overzicht bieden van het nieuwe wettelijke kader dat van toepassing is op B.V.'s. De klemtoon ligt daarbij, anders dan de reeds bestaande Nederlandse commentaren, vooral op die aspecten van het Nederlandse recht die hetzij voor de buitenlandse jurist bijzondere verduidelijking behoeven, hetzij vanuit beleidsmatig oogpunt belangwekkend zijn met het oog op een mogelijke toekomstige hervorming van het Belgische BVBA-recht. De meest in het oog springende thema's daarbij zijn het nagenoeg geheel verdwijnen van het regime inzake kapitaalvorming en -bescherming, de extreme diversificatiemogelijkheden op het vlak van de aandeelhoudersrechten en de verregaande contractualisering van de interne organisatiestructuur.
Belgium, get ready to compete for corporate charters: een pleidooi voor de invoering van de statutaire zetelleer
In deze bijdrage wordt ervoor gepleit om in het Belgisch vennootschappelijk IPR afstand te nemen van de werkelijke zetelleer en over te schakelen naar de statutaire zetelleer, i.e. een variant van de incorporatieleer die de grensoverschrijdende omzetting van vennootschappen toestaat. Geargumenteerd wordt dat deze benadering beter strookt met de Europese context en diverse voordelen biedt, onder meer op het vlak van de rechtszekerheid.
The Single Supervisory Mechanism or SSM, Part One of the Banking Union
The Regulation on the Single Supervisory Mechanism mandates the European Central Bank to exercise prudential supervision on the most significant banks located in the Euro area, whether directly by the Bank's own services, or indirectly by the national prudential supervisors but under the general guidance of the ECB. The paper gives a detailed analysis of the new regime, its scope, the consequences for the existing supervisory systems, especially the home-host attribution of competences and the cooperation between the ECB and the national supervisors, the consequences for the non-euro Member States and for the third country jurisdictions. This regime is likely to substantially modify the existing supervisory landscape. It is the first step towards the Banking Union and is to be followed by legislative instruments on Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, the Regulations on a Single Resolution Mechanism and on Deposit Guarantee Systems. These three measures should allow dealing with defaulting banks without calling on the taxpayers.
Vragen rond de aanknopingspunten in de Europese Insolventieverordening
Deze bijdrage tracht aan te tonen dat de in de Europese Insolventieverordening (EIV) gebruikte aanknopingspunten voor het aanduiden van de bevoegde insolventierechters en de toepasselijke nationale insolventiewetgeving verschillende problemen tot gevolg hebben. Betreurenswaardig is vooral dat het huidig regelgevend kader aanleiding geeft tot rechtsonzekerheid. Deze wordt veroorzaakt door verschillende fenomenen en vaststellingen, waaronder (i) de mogelijkheid dat tussen de debiteur en de schuldeisers een 'race to the courthouse' ontstaat voor het indienen van de insolventie-aanvraag, (ii) de mogelijkheid dat debiteurs aan reguleringsarbitrage doen aan de vooravond van hun faillissement en (iii) de vaststelling dat er afbakeningsproblemen kunnen bestaan tussen vennootschapsrecht en het insolventierecht dat op een quasi insolvente vennootschap toepasselijk is. Omdat deze rechtsonzekerheid in wezen te herleiden is tot het gebruik in de EIV van het COMI (Centre of Main Interests) als relevant aanknopingspunt voor het bepalen van de plaats waar de hoofdinsolventieprocedure kan worden geopend, wordt in deze bijdrage gepleit voor de afschaffing ervan.
Shareholders as Stewards: Evidence from Belgian General Meetings
Shareholder activism is at the heart of the corporate governance debate. This study investigates shareholder activism through the voting turnout as well as the voting behavior of large and small shareholders and the resolutions voted at annual general meetings (AGMs) of Belgian listed companies.
The mean voting turnout was 56.0 per cent in 2012, up from 49.9 per cent in 2011. The attendance of small shareholders is significantly lower at 20.4 per cent, providing evidence that large shareholders control de facto almost 80 per cent of all Belgian listed entities.
Opposition is generally low while dissent for the remuneration report and for some director elections is higher. When small shareholder approval rates would be taken in consideration, several board proposals would have been defeated, including almost 20 per cent of the remuneration reports. Similarly, almost 10 per cent of the candidate directors are not supported by a majority of the small shareholders. However, all directors were (re)elected due to the majority position of the blockholders at Belgian AGMs.
As the important decision taking body, we recommend reforming the position of the AGM providing in better stewardship. The role of the AGM should be oriented towards a discussion platform between board and different types of shareholders for eg. policy making rather than its present function of formal decision making body. We end with policy recommendations to enhance the role of the AGM and empower the AGM for taking for policy decisions.
Are rules prohibiting the doorstep selling of certain goods and prohibiting the itinerant selling of goods and services without prior authorization compatible with the EU-Treaty and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive?
In the cases Burmanjer and A-Punkt Schmuckhandel, the CJEU examines whether the Belgian legislation prohibiting the itinerant selling of subscriptions to periodicals without prior authorisation (Burmanjer) and the Austrian legislation prohibiting the doorstep selling of silver jewelry (A-Punkt Schmuckhandel) are compatible with the free movement of goods. Answering these questions, the Court applies the reasoning formerly adopted in Keck and Mithouard. After analysing the reasoning of the Court in these cases, this paper examines whether this jurisprudence is still relevant today when determining whether a prohibition of itinerant selling of (certain) goods without prior authorisation or a prohibition on doorstep selling of certain goods are compatible with European law. When answering this question, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive will also be taken into account.
In Socit Fiduciaire Nationale d'Expertise Comptable, the CJEU decides that national legislation which totally prohibits the members of a regulated profession from engaging in canvassing is incompatible with article 24 (1) of the Services Directive, which precludes total prohibitions on commercial communications by regulated professions. Determining whether rules on the doorstep selling, the itinerant selling or canvassing of services are compatible with European law, requires an analysis of the scope and content of article 56 TFEU, the Services Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
De bescherming van de consument bij pandovereenkomsten
De Pandwet zorgt voor een belangrijke modernisering van het zekerheidsrecht. In het oog springt vooral de mogelijkheid tot een inpandgeving van roerende goederen zonder dat tot een buitenbezitstelling dient te worden overgegaan. De vaststelling dat de totstandkoming van een pandovereenkomst niet langer de buitenbezitstelling vereist, brengt met zich mee dat het pand in de toekomst ook vaker als zekerheid zou kunnen worden gebruikt voor schulden die door consumenten worden aangegaan. Waar een wagen, een salon of een televisie door de consument de facto niet in pand kunnen worden gegeven indien de inpandgeving de buitenbezitstelling vereist van het betrokken goed, is een inpandgeving van duurzame consumptiegoederen wel denkbaar indien de buitenbezitstelling niet is vereist.
De wetgever heeft ervoor geopteerd om aan de pandgever die als een consument kan worden gekwalificeerd een bijzondere bescherming te bieden. Zo wordt bepaald dat een pandovereenkomst zonder buitenbezitstelling alleen schriftelijk kan worden gesloten, dat de waarde van de verpande goederen maximaal het dubbele mag bedragen van het gewaarborgde bedrag, dat bijhorigheden (zoals schadebedingen) slechts ten belope van 50% van de hoofdsom kunnen worden gewaarborgd, dat de pandhouder de goederen slechts kan laten verkopen door zich tot de rechter te wenden.
De doelstelling van deze bijdrage bestaat erin de verschillende regelen die strekken tot bescherming van de consument inhoudelijk nader te onderzoeken, alsook na te gaan hoe bepaalde van deze regelen zich verhouden tot een aantal bepalingen uit de Wet Consumentenkrediet (hierna WCK). Ook aan de invulling die de wetgever aan het consumentenbegrip heeft gegeven, wordt aandacht besteed.
The Risk Management Duties of the Board of Directors
The board of directors is responsible for an appropriate business risk management environment. The paper studies in a comparative way how legislators and courts fill this duty. We question whether the legislative and regulatory framework will improve the equilibrium between entrepreneurship and risk control. We advocate for a distinct approach for strategic and operational risk management, defining risk appetite and tolerance and sufficient monitoring. We also call for full and detailed reporting and compliance risk management.
Transparency of Directors Attributes: Improving Proxy Materials in Europe
The composition of the board of directors is considered key for the success of the company. The current approach to compose this board is to provide shareholders and investors with individual information of the skills and experience of (candidate) directors. The information is insufficient to qualify whether the candidate will enrich the board. Shareholders and investors are also deprived of information which composition the board considers appropriate to achieve the corporate goals. These problems can be solved with an appropriate disclosure framework. The skills and experience of the current board must be provided as well as the qualities that the new candidates will provide to the board. An example how a disclosure framework for competent boards must look like, is presented. It provides incentives for active ownership. Shareholders can vote for a specific board structure which in their opinion can best achieve the corporate goals.
The European Banking Union. A First Analysis
The European Council of 18-9 October 2012 has confirmed its decision to support the European Banking Union for the euro area. The Single Supervisory mechanism, centralising banking supervision at the European Central bank is the first, most directly applicable building block in this Union. The Commission proposals, published on 12 September and to be adopted before the end of 2012, have stirred ample political, financial and technical interest. The present paper gives a first legal and technical analysis of these proposals, referring also to some of the discussions that have already sprung up and identifying a few of the controversial points.
De grensoverschrijdende omzetting van vennootschappen binnen de Europese Unie na de arresten Cartesio en VALE
Deze paper bevat een analyse inzake de vrijheid van vestiging en de mogelijkheid tot rechtskeuze-uitoefening na het arrest VALE, dat in juli 2012 werd geveld.
A New look at the Debate about the Takeover Directive
With a view of the projected revision of the takeover directive, this paper calls attention to some items that would usefully be revised. Especially attention is drawn to the mandatory bid rule, the scope of which should restricted to share acquisitions and not apply to other control changes, while company law in general should strictly regulate conflicted transactions, thereby eliminating control premia, and hence the need to proceed to a mandatory bid. Multistate takeover should be reregulated, taking into account the new supervisory structure, esp. ESMA. Also some of the blanks should be filled e.g. on squeeze outs, sell outs, and other specific requirements like acting in concert. As to the most controversial item of defensive techniques, a fundamental revision seems unlikely, but one could be considered to allow these techniques, but subject their effectiveness to a qualified vote in the general meeting, the shareholders voting according to the rules applicable before the bid.
Risk in financial institutions: is it Managed?
Adequate Risk management has become the central pre-occupation of financial regulators, central banks, and banks as well. Awareness about the risk issue has increased considerably, partly spontaneously, partly under the pressure of new regulations, esp. the Basel III standards. Risk measurement, risk appetite is a management tool, a process and a learning curve, more than a fixed formula. Risk inspired restrictive measures abound, but may overly reduce the credit flow to the economies, making it difficult to strike the right balance between risk stability and liquidity provision.
The Basel II CRD IV call special attention to risk management by introducing some very clear cut rules, leaving the traditional comply and explain approach to a stricter supervisory intervention. Should a bank adopt its behavior if this may potentially trigger macro-risk? What is the role of the auditors and of the shareholders dealing-opposing strict risk management. More work has to be undertaken, but banks obviously are investing considerably in better risk controls.
Regulation and Case law relating to Financial Derivatives
The widespread use of derivatives has created considerable new risks, especially of a systemic nature. To reduce risks regulators hare mandating the use of central counterparties, of trade repositories and of regulated trading facilities. The paper gives a short overview of pending European proposals. It also deals with the court decisions that have been rendered in relating to derivatives, or structured products in several European jurisdictions, especially opposing local authorities and private investors to banks.
Systemic risk in the securities activities
Systemic risk is receiving more and more attention outside the banking sector: the securities and now also the insurance field are being analysed with a view of detecting systemic threats. This paper gives an overview of some more visible systemic developments, starting from a number of events with systemic character and the related regulatory responses. The position of company boards faced with systemic risk is touched upon.
Het aanbieden van consumentenkrediet na Richtlijn 2008/48 EG: de Nederlandse en Belgische regelgeving aan elkaar getoetst
This paper (in Dutch) discusses some requirements that govern the provision of Consumer Credit in the Netherlands and Belgium and the harmonization of laws through Directive 2008/48 EC.
Precontractuele bijstand ex. artikel 11, §4 W.C.K. Katalysator voor een herijkt beslissings- en toezichtsmodel inzake consumentenkrediet?
Deze bijdrage gaat nader in op de precontractuele informatie- en adviesverplichtingen uit de Wet Consumentenkrediet en meer in het bijzonder de plicht voor de kredietgever, respectievelijk de kredietbemiddelaar, tot het verstrekken van passende toelichting.
The regulatory regime of Exchange traded funds in the European Union
Exchange traded funds have become an essential part of our financial landscape: they stand globally for $ 1,3 billion assets, 2% of listed securities and 5% of all investment funds, and constitute also for the retail investor an attractive alternative to the traditionally managed funds. Their legal regime needs further analysis especially also due to the multiple forms they can adopt, and the innovations in the regulation of investment funds. The different hypotheses are analysis, including the application of the new regime under the Alternative Investment Funds directive. Systemic issues may receive a new answer on the basis of this directive.
Credit cards, overdraft facilities and European consumer protection. A blank cheque for unfairness?
This contribution takes a close look at overdraft facilities, the most eccentric type of credit under the scope of Directive 2008/48 EC on credit agreements for consumers. Even in the absence of a 'smoking gun' linking consumer credit to personal insolvency, the tacit nature of this type of credit represents a significant 'spiral of debts' risk. Armed with some overdraft facility basics we provide several theoretical insights on imperfect markets for consumer finance and consumer (un)awareness and biases when contracting for money. Today's information requirements only partly capture the reality of Homo sapiens kind of borrowers. European consumer protection ought to safeguard consumers from behavior diverging from (perfect) rationality. It should therefore abandon narrow legal reasoning and include ethical, economical and social norms. In an attempt to reach a substantial information equilibrium we call for multi-layered and intelligent credit regulation incorporating aforementioned behavioral evidence. While such rules might be better aligned with product legislation, new IT solutions pave the way for targeted point of sale disclosure and tailored monthly statements. A strict regulatory dichotomy between regulation with regard to a consumer's assets (e.g. investor protection) and debts (e.g. consumer credit) seems superseded. The last part of our contribution shines a light on the evolved Belgian approach with regard to overdraft facilities, foreclosing an unlimited freedom of the market for price setting.
Fraud-on-the-market: een causaliteitstheorie inzake beleggersverliezen
The possibility to obtain compensation for investor losses has gained substantial importance and attention in recent years, since capital markets across Europe have increasingly attracted smaller investors who have substituted traditional savings products offered by the banks for more risk-bearing financial products traded on financial markets. As a consequence of the internet-bubble at the end of the 1990s and recently the worldwide financial crisis in 2008-09, many investors suffered considerable investment losses, causing legal practice to consider whether and to what extent investor losses can be recovered from financial institutions, intermediaries, issuers and other market participants. Reported case law however shows that investors are struggling to obtain compensation for their claims. One of the problems they find themselves confronted with is the burden of proof regarding the requirement of causation between the alleged wrongful and the damages they claim. In this paper, the requirement of causation, as it is interpreted and applied in the Belgian courts, is analyzed with respect to investor suits following misstatements to the market. Based on the case law analysis, the paper shows that the courts do not deal with the requirement of causation in a very consistent and uniform manner. An alternative concept to deal with the causation requirement is analyzed, drawing comparisons with US securities fraud cases, and particularly with the fraud on the market-theory.
Protecting borrowers through information and advice: the Belgian Consumer Credit Act
The Consumer Credit Directive requires the creditor or the credit intermediary on the one hand to provide certain information and adequate explanations to consumers before they are bound by a consumer credit agreement and on the other hand to assess the consumer's creditworthiness before the conclusion of the credit agreement. The aim of this paper is to discuss the transposition of the European Consumer Credit
Directive into Belgian legislation. We will analyze the pre-contractual obligations - and their sanctions in case of violation - as applied by the courts/in legal practice. Also, we will examine whether the Belgian Act is compatible with the Consumer Credit Directive, the latter being based on the principle of targeted full harmonization.
Aandeelhoudersvorderingen met het oog op schadevergoeding, of waarom elke aandeelhouder vergoeding van reflexschade kan vorderen, Belgie class actions moet invoeren en de minderheidsvordering moet hervormen
This article, written for a volume celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 2001 New Codification of Belgian Company Law, contains a critical discussion of the Belgian legal rules concerning shareholders' suits in which shareholders of a corporation claim damages because their shares dropped in value as a result of negligence or another breach of duty by a third party. The article deals with direct suits because of reflective damage, with derivative actions and with securities class actions. It argues that traditional judge-made rules barring shareholders from bringing suit when the drop in share value they experience constitutes "reflective loss" because the drop reflects damage to the corporation that issued the shares, are incompatible with a correct application of art. 1382 Belgian Civil Code (the general rule of liability for negligence). Nevertheless, I acknowlegde that policy objections can be raised against the dogmatically correct rule that shareholders have an individual right of direct action as soon as their damage is certain because it is certain that the corporation itsel will not claim damages from the tortfeasor. To counter the double jeopardy problems caused by direct shareholder suits without robbing shareholders of legal remedies, I suggest reforming the rules on derivative actions. I propose to abolish the threshold of 1% of voting rights for bringing a derivative action, as well as the rule banning derivative actions against others than board members. The rules on the allocation of legal costs should be reformed to alleviate the massive free rider problem under current law.
Finally, I give arguments supporting recent proposals to introduce some form of class actions in Belgium. At the same time, I suggest that separate rules for securities class actions should be introduced. Because of the so-called "circularity problem" and rules largely shielding directors and especially officers from personal liability , it is likely (as the American experience shows) that neither the compensatory nor the deterrent effect of securities class actions would be very large. Tailor-made rules are therefore needed, but I even suggest that if the Belgian legislator introduces class actions, he may consider excluding securities class actions, or securities class actions with the corporation as a (co-)defendant.
Het algemeen belang als doelstelling van de auditfunctie en van het auditberoep
Het beroep van auditor is opnieuw het voorwerp van aandacht van wet- en regelgevers. Opvallend is de aansluiting bij het algemeen belang dat tot uiting komt zowel in het Green Paper van de Europese Commissie, als in de ontwikkeling van de auditnormen door IFAC, zoals deze worden overzien door de PIOB. Enkele aspecten van de Green paper worden kort ontleed: de concentratie problematiek en de toezichtorganisatie. Verder wordt de PIOB voorgesteld.
Reclame en precontractuele informatie onder de wet consumentenkrediet anno 2011
Op 1 december 2010 is de gewijzigde Wet Consumentenkrediet in werking getreden. De wijziging van de Wet Consumentenkrediet is het gevolg van de omzetting van de Richtlijn Consumentenkrediet. In deze bijdrage zullen wij aandacht besteden aan de regelen inzake reclame en de precontractuele informatieverplichtingen die in de algemene bepalingen van de Wet Consumentenkrediet vervat liggen. Wij beperken ons daarbij niet tot een beschrijving van de (nieuwe) bepalingen, doch geven tevens aan of de (nieuwe) regelen verenigbaar zijn met de Europese Richtlijn. De Richtlijn is immers gebaseerd op het principe van gerichte volledige harmonisatie, zodat op enkele punten de vraag rijst of de wetgever de bescherming, zoals deze vervat lag in de wet van 1991, zoals gewijzigd in 2003, wel kon behouden. Bij dit alles verliezen wij ook de Wet Marktpraktijken niet uit het oog.
Europe’s New Financial Supervisory Bodies
This short paper gives an overview of some of the basic features of the new supervisory landscape that was introduced in Europe starting from 2011. Are mentioned, the relationship between local supervision and centralised rulemaking, the relationship of the new European authorities with the national supervisors and their position in the overall EU regulatory structure, their internal organisation and finally the powers that have been conferred on these new bodies.
IAS – Some Longer Term Views on IFRS
The IFRS have been an impressive success story being applied by about 2/3rds of the world. Essentially the US remains outside, at least until further notice as the SEC is planning to make a new move in 2011, while "marking to market" has been announced to be open for a more flexible reading.
The main objective will be to keep the IFRS truly worldwide, what is a valuable public good, but may be difficult to achieve. There is a risk of differences in rulemaking, in interpretation and in application. Strong monitoring will be needed to keep the IFRS identical all over the world.
National differences in accounting rules and interpretation may be due to different needs: shareholder v. creditor protection. This divide also characterizes several company law provisions, and should be overcome.
Allocating liability in case of fraudulent use of electronic payment instruments and the Belgian mobile payment instrument pingping
In case of fraudulent use of an electronic payment instrument the question arises who bears the financial consequences of such losses. Since in most cases it is impossible to determine who committed fraud, the loss will have to be allocated between the payment service user and the payment service provider. The first part of this article will focus on the rules (incorporated in the new Payment Services Directive) (Kierkegaard, 2007; Vanden Bosch and Mathey, 2007) determining who is liable in case of fraudulent use of a traditional electronic payment instrument, such as a debit card, a credit card or an e-banking system. In doing so, we will especially focus on the concept of extreme negligence and the problems concerning the burden of proof. In the second part of this article we will discuss the applicability of these rules allocating liability to mobile payment instruments, using the new Belgian payment system 'pingping' as an example.
The Risks of Corporate Legal Principles of Risk Management
Corporate governance codes and corporate law contain provisions of internal control and risk management. First, this paper analyses the state of the art of these provisions in five Western European countries. The regulatory framework stretches from a Frühwarnsystem in Germany over the internal control report of the French chairman of the board and the internal control statement of the Dutch board to the European corporate governance statement and the UK sound risk management maintenance principle. Next, the paper provides insights how a sample of REIT's put the internal control and risk management rules and principles into corporate practice over the last decade. The analysis demonstrates that risk identification, financial risk management and risk response grew to an advanced stage while risk assessment - in particular the impact assessment of non-financial risks - and control activities are still in a development stage. The evidence shows that risk management practices are driven by regulation and legislation. Many but not all internal control features have been harmonized. The last section discusses some of the legal consequences of the finding that in view of both the regulatory developments and corporate practices new risks have emerged. First, the legal requirements as well as the eagerness of companies to fully comply with all best practices create a field of tension between the basic assumption of risk management frameworks in providing (only) reasonable assurance and the (reported) state of the art of managing and apparently controlling all (material) risks. Second, there is the risk related to the friction between the progress in identifying the risk management responsibilities of the concerned corporate parties while there is a standstill of other areas of law and in particular of the liability regimes.
Belgian Bank Governance before and after the Financial Crisis
Good bank governance is of vital concern to banks, financial industry and economy. The recent financial crisis has shown that an insufficient governance framework is an important attribute to a crisis. This article discusses corporate governance of Belgian banks: the specific regulatory environment, the ownership structure, the composition of the board, the management structure and the main corporate governance developments since the financial crisis. The new regulatory framework and supervision system made significant improvements to bank governance. A major problem and future challenge will be to appropriately address the tension between the market expectations of both performance and corporate governance on the one hand and the interests of the different actors on the other hand. We conclude that notwithstanding the seriousness of the financial crisis and the regulatory changes, these steps insufficiently address this conflict.
Shareholder Rights and the Importance of Foreign Shareholders
In many countries shareholders were offered more rights to protect their position against "inappropriate" behaviour of other corporate constituents. Whether these developments resulted in more market participation and deeper and more liquid markets, as argued in law and finance theory, remained an open question. For a large sample of European listed companies we reveal part of the answer: we analyse the evolution of the investment behaviour of foreign shareholders in a large sample of European companies between 1999 and 2007.
A steadily growing number of all large stakes belong to foreign shareholders. However, the average voting block of a foreign shareholder decreased in all countries but in Germany. The results show that the hypothesis of a straightforward inverse linear relationship between shareholder rights and ownership concentration is not confirmed. Other features drive the development of ownership structures. These factors are of a legal nature, like the mandatory bid threshold, or are more shareholder specific, like the investment contraints of UCITS.
Law and Economics of Shareholder Rights and Ownership Structures: How Trivial are Shareholder Rights for Shareholders?
Law and Finance theory stresses the importance of shareholder rights for the reliability and development of capital markets. Many European Parliaments picked up this corporate governance issue. We expand the analysis of Lele and Siems (2007) and show that the number of shareholder rights grew steadily in many countries over the last fifteen years. In particular the protection of shareholders against shirking of the board members and the officers increased significantly. The protection of minority shareholders against the expropriation of major shareholders remained unchanged. In light of these findings, it can be expected that after a time lag ownership concentration would decrease in continental Europe. However, our evidence is mixed. The analysis of the development of shareholder structures from different perspectives - ownership concentration, shareholder classes and ownership distribution - revealed only limited support for the Law and Finance arguments. The results cause serious doubts on the influence of shareholder rights on ownership structures and the development of liquid capital markets. That is not to say, shareholder rights have no added value and should be abolished. The mixed evidence suggests that other variables, like the presence of activist shareholders, might be much more influential than the development of shareholder rights.
A Differentiated Approach to Client Protection: The Example of MiFID
In this contribution to the June 2010 SECOLA conference in Istanbul on "The Failure of Contracting: Financial Crisis, Financial Services and General European Contract Law", we analyze the system of differentiated client protection under the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive ("MiFID"), and compare this regime to the approach used by standard private law.
We provide context and background on the genesis of the MiFID client categorization system, and describe its black letter content in detail. We also make an inventory of all MiFID conduct of business rules that differentiate between professional and retail clients. We then analyze to what extent this regulatory system differs from the way in which investor protection is to be differentiated based on general principles of private (contract or tort) law.
Ongoing developments in European Corporate Governance
This paper contains the keynote speech delivered on December 6th, 2010 by Eddy Wymeersch, Chairman of the European Corporate Governance Institute at the Xth Corporate Governance Conference, Brussels. Apart from an overview on corporate governance elements in different EU work streams, it calls attention to the link between corporate governance and short termism, the questions raised by the increasing tension between government regulation and the corporate governance codes, and finally the new focus on the shareholders, both in EU initiatives and in the UK, where the stewardship code has received much attention.
The regulation of private equity, hedge funds and state funds
This text contains the general report for the XVIIIth Congres on Comparative Law to be held in Washington DC. It gives a comparative overview of the three types of funds to be discussed, and some of the problems that have been raised about them. On hedge funds, the analysis indicates that most regulators have avoided them to be offered to the retail investors, but the way this is achieved is quite different. Therefore, regulation often is limited to this negative ambit. Some regulatory provisions apply in connection with the prime brokers or the depositaries. Much of this will chance after the entry into force of the future EU directive on Alternative Investment fund management, providing for a substantive regulation of hedge fund activity along with a European pasport. On private equity funds, the focus has been put on their relations with investee companies. On sovereign wealth funds, the international conduct rules have been mentioned along with different ways states follow for prohibiting foreign invetsment in their economy. This general report is based on the input from national reporters, and own research.
GREEN PAPER – Audit Policy: Lessons from the Crisis
This paper represents the response of the undersigned to the EU Commission's consultation on auditing services . It draws attention to the need to clearly position the auditor in the agency relation to the shareholders, to make him clearly accountable to them, and this by introducing a shareholder committee in charge of appointing the auditor, determining his remuneration and receiving his report.
It further proposes to organise an oversight system on the audit professionals along the lines recently introduced in the field of financial services, based on a hub and spoke system.
Finally with the respect to the concentration issue that may have systemic aspects, it proposes to better organise the procedures for designating auditors by making the process more open, fair and transparent. Moreover, the top audit firms should organise themselves for possible systemic shocks.
The Civil Law Effects of MiFID in a Comparative Law Perspective
The European harmonization efforts produced under the European Commission's Financial Services Action Plan in the field of capital market regulation have created an impressive body of investor protection oriented rules. Strikingly, the harmonization directives remain largely silent on the penetration of these investor protection rules into the private law sphere of the relation between financial services suppliers and investors. Taking the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2004/39/EC as an illustration, we analyse in this paper to what extent the investor protection rules devised at EU level are devised to produce effects in private law relations, and how this is reflected in the laws of selected national jurisdictions. We focus in this regard at on the civil law effects of the MiFID provisions regarding (i) authorization and prudential requirements for regulated firms and (ii) conduct of business rules to be observed by the suppliers of investment services. We observe quite some "blind spots" in MiFID regarding important aspects of the private law relationship. More generally, MiFID is illustrative of the "regulatory atrophy" with regard to opportunities for private enforcement of the investor protection rules. We submit that the legal uncertainty induced by the disparities in national liability regimes may create disincentives for suppliers of investment services to effectively take advantage of the European passport regime.
Studiedag Interne controle in de bank- & verzekeringssector
Het onderwerp van deze studiedag is de "interne controle" waarbij vooral de financiële instellingen in de belangstelling staan.
Maar ik zou, bij wijze van inleiding, het vraagstuk willen verruimen en dit in verschillende richtingen.
De interne controle is uiteraard geen vraagstuk van de financiële instellingen alleen: alle ondernemingen hebben er mee te maken, zij het dat voor hen de externe reglementaire omkadering niet zo sterk is doorgedreven.
Alhoewel, de voorschriften inzake productcontrole zijn voor de meeste producten streng omschreven: denk maar aan de voedingscontrole, of de controle op geneesmiddelen, of op vliegtuigen en hun gebruik.
Ook de processen worden streng gecontroleerd, en bij tekortkomingen stelt men vast hoe groot de schade is: mag ik u twee recente gevallen vermelden: Toyota met zijn gaspedaal, of BP met zijn mislukte boringen in de Golf van Mexico. In industriële processen, bij voorbeeld in de textielsector wordt zeer sterk aan kwaliteitscontrole gedaan, omdat tekortkomingen onmiddellijk zichtbaar zijn .
Dit alles om samenvattend te stellen dat controle op de interne processen in alle ondernemingen een hoge prioriteit hebben, en dat zij in de industriële wereld, waar de ingenieurs de vlag zwaaien, wellicht sterker ontwikkeld zijn, zoals onlangs een bekend industrieel bij ons stelde dat de financiële sector nog zeer veel van hen te leren had.
Nieuwe wettelijke regeling voor girale en elektronische betalingen: wie wint en wie verliest?
Op 1 april 2010 is een nieuwe wettelijke regeling betreffende betalingsdiensten in werking treden. Deze regeling heeft de tot dan bestaande wetgeving aangaande grensoverschrijdende overschrijvingen binnen de Europese Economische Ruimte en aangaande elektronische betalingstransacties opgeheven. De nieuwe regeling heeft een ruimer toepassingsgebied en innoveert ook inhoudelijk op een aantal punten. In deze bijdrage zal aandacht besteed worden aan de nieuwe regeling en onderzocht worden of zij een betere bescherming inhoudt voor de gebruiker van betalingsdiensten.
Developing Regulation in the Field of Financial Market Infrastructures
Securities markets' infrastructures are the subject of regulatory concerns, especially due to their systemic importance and their key role in investor protection. Different initiatives, both international as regional - esp. in the EU and in the US - have been introduced or announced. The present overview essentially deals with the European developments in the field of securities and in derivatives as well. Especially in the latter fields, reforms are urgently needed to reduce risk, introducing central clearing parties (CCPs), and trade repositories. The role of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) is especially mentioned.
Het verbod op short selling
The article provides a general definition of naked and covered short selling and assesses the impact of short selling on the settlement procedures, efficient price discovery and market liquidity. Subsequently the Belgian emergency measures concerning short selling, which were introduced by the Royal Decree of 23 September 2008, are thoroughly examined. By way of conclusion CESR's recent model of a pan-European disclosure regime for net short position in shares is reviewed and compared with the Belgian emergency measures.
What systemic risks may concern specific players/activities such as derivatives, CCPs and Hedge Funds? How to mitigate them?
The question raises firstly the issue of the definition of systemic risks. Although there have been several definitions proposed, it is widely accepted that it is a flexible notion, difficult to capture in one sentence, and changing depending on time and context. Also systemic features cannot be analyzed only from the side of the individual financial institutions, or even of a group of parent and subsidiaries. Finally one has systemic events: the suspension of redemptions in two investment funds lead to systemic concerns in early august 2008.
So what is systemic is extremely difficult to define ex ante, and it is probably better that we do not define it too clearly: "constructive ambiguity", that great invention of central bankers, is the appropriate approach here too.
Het Spector-arrest van het Hof van Justitie van de Europese Unie en het vermoeden van gebruik van voorkennis
In het Spector- arrest van 23 december 2009 oordeelt het Europees Hof van Justitie dat de insider die verrichtingen stelt in financiële instrumenten van een emittent waarvan hij over voorkennis beschikt, vermoed wordt "gebruik" te hebben gemaakt van zijn voorkennis, zonder dat een causaal verband tussen de voorkennis en de verrichte transactie moet worden bewezen. Dit vermoeden geldt evenwel onder voorbehoud van de rechten van verdediging en specifiek het recht om dit vermoeden te weerleggen in de gevallen waarin het gebruik van de voorkennis niet als ongeoorloofd is aan te merken in het licht van de doelstellingen van de richtlijn. In deze bijdrage brengen we de implicaties van het arrest in kaart op het vlak van de handhaving van het verbod van misbruik van voorkennis, en wijzen we in het bijzonder op de vragen die rijzen bij de concrete weerlegging van het vermoeden van gebruik van voorkennis. We illustreren deze vragen aan de hand van de werking van aandelenoptieplannen ten gunste van personeelsleden en bestuurders van genoteerde vennootschappen.
De nieuwe wet consumentenkrediet en de kredietopening: een afdoende bescherming voor de consument?
Met de Wet van 13 juni 2010 koos de Belgische Wetgever voor micro-chirurgische "reparatie" van de Wet op het Consumentenkrediet om deze in overeenstemming te brengen met de Richtlijn Consumentenkrediet van 23 april 2008. Daar laatstgenoemde richtlijn beheerst wordt door het principe van (gerichte) volledige harmonisatie, een begrip waarvan de lading zich niet eenduidig laat vatten, was het behoud van het huidige beschermingsniveau één van de voornaamste uitdagingen voor de Belgische beleidsmakers. In deze bijdrage wordt nagegaan of de wetgever erin geslaagd is deze ambitie te realiseren door middel van een analyse van de bepalingen inzake kredietopeningen.
De impact van het privaat financieel recht op de wilsautonomie, de contractvrijheid en het consensualisme
Het Belgische verbintenissenrecht wordt onder meer gekenmerkt door de principes van de contractvrijheid, de wilsautonomie en het consensualisme. De begrippen wilsautonomie en contractvrijheid moeten, hoewel ze vaak door elkaar worden gebruikt en nauw met elkaar verbonden zijn, duidelijk van elkaar worden onderscheiden. Het principe van de contractvrijheid houdt in dat een entiteit in het rechtsverkeer vrij is om al dan niet een overeenkomst te sluiten en tevens vrij is te bepalen met welke partij zij een overeenkomst aangaat. Het principe van de wilsautonomie impliceert dat de partijen vrij zijn om de inhoud van het contract overeen te komen, i.e. naar eigen goeddunken hun rechten en plichten te regelen. Het principe van het consensualisme, dat inhoudt dat overeenkomsten tot stand komen ingevolge loutere wilsovereenstemming - met andere woorden dat voor de rechtsgeldige totstandkoming van de overeenkomsten niet aan bepaalde formele voorwaarden moet worden voldaan - kan eveneens als een toepassing van het principe van de wilsautonomie worden beschouwd.
Dit artikel heeft tot doel na te gaan in welke mate financieelrechterlijke bepalingen die strekken tot de bescherming van de zwakkere partij afwijken van de principes van contractvrijheid, wilsautonomie en consensualisme. Wat de inperking van de contractvrijheid betreft, kan het zowel gaan om bepalingen die een financiële instelling de verplichting opleggen om een bepaalde overeenkomst te sluiten, als over bepalingen die de financiële instelling in bepaalde omstandigheden een verbod opleggen om te contracteren. Ook de mogelijkheid de inhoud van de overeenkomst vrij te bepalen, wordt door de wetgever op verschillende manieren beperkt. Enerzijds kunnen wettelijke bepalingen financiële instellingen verplichten om bepaalde vermeldingen in de overeenkomst op te nemen. Anderzijds kunnen wettelijke regelen contractuele clausules met een bepaalde strekking verbieden. Afwijkingen van het principe van het consensualisme bestaan er steeds in dat bepaalde formaliteiten moeten worden gerespecteerd opdat een overeenkomst rechstgeldig tot stand zou komen.
De omzetting van de Richtlijn Betaaldiensten in België
Op 5 december 2007 werd in het Publicatieblad van de Europese Unie de Richtlijn 2007/64 van 13 november 2007 betreffende betalingsdiensten in de interne markt - die in het Europees jargon de Payment Services Directive of PSD wordt genoemd - gepubliceerd. De PSD diende te worden omgezet tegen 1 november 2009, een datum die door de Belgische wetgever niet werd gehaald . De doelstelling van deze bijdrage bestaat er niet in om de inhoud van de Belgische wetgeving die strekt tot omzetting van de Richtlijn Betaaldiensten, in detail te bespreken, doch enkel aandacht te besteden aan enerzijds de wijze waarop de Belgische wetgever de Richtlijn heeft gïmplementeerd en anderzijds de punten waar de wet afwijkt van de Europese Richtlijn. Hoewel de Richtlijn gebaseerd is op het principe van maximale harmonisatie, laat de Richtlijn de mogelijkheid aan de lidstaten om van bepaalde regelen af te wijken. Verder stelt men vast dat de Belgische wet ook op een aantal andere punten afwijkt van de Richtlijn, hetgeen dan meteen de vraag doet rijzen naar de verenigbaarheid van de betrokken bepaling met het Europese recht.
Radicalisering van corporate governance-regelgeving: remuneratie en transparantie na de wet van 6 april 2010
This paper analyses the Belgian "Corporate Governance Act" of April 6 2010, which introduces new binding rules on directors' and top executives' remuneration in Belgian listed companies and forces those companies to publish an annual corporate governance report, containing a section on remuneration policies. The Act, clearly motivated by outrage about executive pay in the aftermath of the financial crisis, uses three methods in a (no doubt hopeless) attempt to reduce compensation levels. The first is increased disclosure, including individual disclosure of different parts of remuneration packages for top executives. The second method consists of nudging companies towards better remuneration governance, such as by forcing them to put a remuneration policy on paper and to install a remuneration committee. Thirdly, the most controversial part of the Act introduces rather detailed and hard to apply binding rules on variable compensation (bonuses of all kinds) and termination payments. These will force companies to rewrite existing compensation contracts; executives will have little choice but to agree. As a result of the Act, golden parachutes of more than 12 months worth of remuneration will probably become rare, since the general meeting has to approve them in a binding vote. This Act also is another step in a progressive legislative differentiation between directors based on such factors as independence and expertise which gradually erodes the concept of the truly unitary, collegiate board.
Presentation at the International Conference of the “Giordano Dell’Amore”
I am very pleased to expose to you a subject that is keeping me and many other people very busy these days, which is the revision of the financial supervisory system. It is a great occasion to present, once more in Milan, the views that are being developed at the European level. I was asked to deal with the "European Supervisory System". I will only develop the micro-supervision, which is the supervision on banking, insurance, pension funds and securities markets. In addition and to be briefly touched upon here, a very important innovation relating to macro-prudential or systemic risk supervision is taking place.
The institutional reforms of the European Financial Supervisory System, an interim report
This interim report attempts to give a short overview of the most important workstreams in the field of securities regulation within the EU. It further gives a provisional analysis of the future supervisory structure after the adoption by the Council of ministers of the regulation on the future European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and on the European Systemic Risk board (ESRB) which are now being discussed in Parliament. The existing directives are all open for review, the Market Abuse, prospectus and Mifid directives being the first in line. These include works streams like the organisation of the derivative markets, the application of Mifid to dark pools and OTC equity trading. In the field of Credit rating agencies' supervision, ESMA will be directly in charge. The proposed directive on Alternative Investment Managers is being discussed, while CESR is working on short selling, packaged retail investment products, money market funds definitions, and the like.
Shareholder after the crisis
Shareholders call for more attention after the crisis: confidence will have to be restored to convince them to recapitalise the financial firms. Five topics are addressed here: shareholders should be able to effectively exercise their rights, especially their voting rights. They should be protected against being sidelined by empty voters. Long termism is called for by calling on more stable, active institutional shareholders, an objective that may be odds with "one share, one vote". Finally, also the state rescuing financial institutes should not intervene without paying any attention to the shareholders' rights.
Roma locuta, causa finita? Conflictenrechtelijke capita selecta inzake bancaire aansprakelijkheid na de Rome II-Verordening
In this paper, we analyze the impact of the Rome II Regulation regarding the law applicable to non-contractual obligations on cases of cross border liability regarding banking and financial services. In view of the current state of harmonization of substantive law in the European Union, which obeys to the home country rule, the conflict rules as contained in the Rome II Regulation may potentially undergo some interference from sectoral harmonization directives.
We illustrate this with regard to liability issues arising of the MiFID conduct of business rules and the European Prospectus Directive. We conclude that the substantive harmonization of conduct of business rules and prospectus requirements do not formulate a conflict rule regarding liability issues. The home country principle does at most involve the law of the home country in setting the standard of care or the information duty with a view to determining possible liability. The provisions regarding damages and causation will, in conflict of law terms, continue to be determined by the Rome II Regulation.
A detailed analysis of the conflict of law regime regarding prospectus liability, analyzed in part 2 of this paper, illustrates the quite complex interrelationship between substantive law harmonization and conflicts of laws in a intra EU context.
Sanctionering van inbreuken op het consumentenrecht: de zoektocht naar een rechtvaardige oplossing
Sedert het begin van de jaren 90 wordt in het Belgische recht steeds vaker aandacht besteed aan de bescherming van de zwakkere partij, i.e. de consument. In 1991 zagen zowel de Wet Handelspraktijken als de Wet Consumentenkrediet het licht. In de jaren daarna werd steeds meer wetgeving uitgevaardigd strekkende tot bescherming van de consument. Denken we bijvoorbeeld maar aan de wet betreffende de minnelijke invordering van schulden van de consument, de regeling inzake de verkoop van consumptiegoederen, de bepalingen inzake timesharing en reiscontracten, etc. In deze bijdrage wil ik wijzen op een aantal problemen die men vandaag vaststelt met betrekking tot de sanctionering van inbreuken op regelen die strekken tot de bescherming van de consument, waarbij wordt onderzocht hoe rechters, die op zoek zijn naar een rechtvaardige oplossing, met deze problemen kunnen of moeten omgaan. De doelstelling van deze bijdrage is om enkele gedachten te lanceren, die dan het voorwerp kunnen uitmaken van een verder debat.
Aandeelhouders in de crisis
De ontwikkelingen in de financiële crisis bevatten talloze elementen die ook voor de ontwikkeling van het vennootschapsrecht relevant zijn. Het debat rond de herziening van de governance regelen is reeds volop aan de gang, en heeft zich vooral toegespitst op de vraag van de vergoeding van de bestuurders. Maar ook wat de positie vand e aandeelhouders betreft vallen enkele merkwaardige ontwikelingen te vermelden. Het contrast met het vennootschapsleven zoals het voor de crisis beoefend werd, en het leven na de crisis is aanzienlijk en zal ook voor de toekomstige ontiwkkelingen relevantie vertonen.
Protecting investors through information requirements
The European Directive on Markets in Financial Instruments and its implementing Directive impose on investment firms among others rules of conduct that have to be respected when providing investment services to their clients. The aim of these rules is to preserve the investors' interests. Several of these rules of conduct create the obligation for the investment firm to provide the investor with information as well as the obligation to obtain information from the investor. The aim of this paper is to discuss and evaluate these information requirements. More specifically, the article aims at investigating whether these rules will be effective in protecting private investors.
Enkele IPR-problemen uit het economisch recht: het mogelijke conflict tussen lex concursus en lex societatis, de effecten op rekening, en Europees getinte class actions in de VS
This paper (in Dutch) gives an overview of some recent developments in conflict of laws aspects of economic law. The three main topics are the insolvency of cross- border corporate groups, the law applicable to book entry securities and the possibility of non-Americans to initiate securities class actions against non-American defendants before US courts (including so-called F-cubed actions). The paper will be published in the conference volume of the Cyclus Delva 2008-2009, to be published by Kluwer Belgium in December 2009.
Global and Regional Financial Regulation, the viewpoint of a European Securities Regulator
This paper gives an overview of the efforts, worldwide and on a regional i.e. European level basis for introducing more effective and better harmonised financial regulation. Recent initiatives especially the work of the G 20 and the creation of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) indicate greater interest for worldwide coordination of financial regulatory intervention. The financial crisis has however dealt a serious blow to previously existing international dialogue, and the fear exists that the main regulators would withdraw on their national battlefields. Major changes in the supervisory architecture are planned in the European Union: a proposal has been tabled to introduce a coordinated approach to regulation and to monitoring the way existing regulations are applied by putting into place a European system of Financial Supervisors. At the same time a new European Systemic Risk Board will be created. These, and comparable changes in the US may contribute to reactivate the regulatory dialogue.
Securitisation and other techniques of credit risk transfer
Firstly, the concept of credit risk will be briefly explained. This is followed by a general survey and classification of the different techniques available for the transfer of credit risk. The paper focuses on the capital market products and more precisely on the technique of securitisation. For a good understanding of the technique, we will elaborate the basic scheme and provide a concise overview of the use and the different types of securitisation. In the second part the emphasis is put on the application of securitisation as a tool for the transfer of credit risk. We will explore the legal and accounting requirements which have to be met for that purpose. The characteristics of the Special Purpose Entity as well as the "true sale" concept hold the limelight in this research. We will also briefly explore the principles of the different Generally Accepted Accounting Standards, with special attention to the IFRS.
Legal aspects of credit transfers and electronic payments: a Belgian perspective
This paper will discuss several legal issues regarding credit transfers and the electronic payment instruments most often used in Belgium, i.e. debit cards and credit cards. More specifically the following questions will be addressed: who is liable in case of late or erroneous execution of a payment transaction, who bears the risk in case of fraud, when does payment take place and is it possible to revoke a payment transaction, once it has been initiated? In answering these questions we will not only take into account the Belgian legislation as it exists today, but we will also refer to the European Directive on Payment Services in the Internal Market which has to be transposed by 1 November 2009 and that will change the Belgian legislation considerably on a few points.
Corporate Governance and Financial Stability
The relationship between corporate governance and financial stability is an intermediate one. Firms have no obligation to take financial stability into account except when the law or the applicable regulation imposes it. In several fields this is the case: regulation of auditors or credit rating agencies are motivated by financial stability issues. Shortcomings in the governance of large financial and other groups have indicated that these may trigger systemic risks. The paper mention a few fields where –apart from regulations directly applicable to the firms that triggered the crisis - corporate governance rules should be strengthened to avoid systemic crisis to develop again: management remuneration, the role of the CEO and the composition of the boards, accounting and valuation issues are already on the political agenda. The paper leaves it open whether these provisions have to be introduced by way of hard law, and whether existing systems of soft regulation would suffice.
Comparative Study of the Company Types in Selected EU States
The purpose of this paper consists of giving an overview of the way companylaws in some European states have been dealing with the dividing linebetween closely held companies limited by shares, and those that have gonepublic or widely distributed shares. It analyses whether a case can be made forregrouping the rules relating to "public" companies in a single body of law, adiscussion that is going on in Germany.
The Regulatory Landscape of European Financial Markets after MiFID (Het reglementaire landschap voor de Europese financiële markten na MiFID)
This article provides an overview of the MiFID rules governing the operation of the financial markets. After outlining the policy aims of MiFID, we address in greater detail the new rules that apply to the regulated markets and other systems for the execution of transactions in financial instruments. Next, we analyse the rules regarding market transparency, which help to ensure that market participants can carry out their transactions in financial instruments on an informed basis. We also investigate the interaction between the best execution obligation incumbent upon intermediaries and the competition between market platforms intended by MiFID. The European regulations are likewise explained, together with the specifically national dimensions. Where relevant, mention is also made of recent market initiatives that take advantage of the new MiFID framework.
The Law of Banking Transactions and Financial Services: Case Law Digest 1999-2007 (Overzicht van rechtspraak – Privaat bankrecht 1999-2007)
This overview contains the inventory and discussion of the Belgian case law reported for the period 1999-2007 in the field of the banking transactions and financial services. The main chapters concern credit transactions (including mortgage, documentary credit and guarantees), bank accounts and payment transactions (payment by cheque, bank transfer, electronic payments), securities transactions and investment services and finally the rules applicable to intermediaries for banking and financial services.
Investor Protection in EU Capital Markets: The Bumpy Road Towards a European IUS Commune (De bescherming van de belegger in het kapitaalmarktrecht: de hobbelige weg naar een Europees Ius Commune)
The regulatory boom in EU securities law, induced by the Financial Services Action Plan (FSAP) and the Lamfalussy-process of multi-level regulation has seen the emergence of a comprehensive body of law in the field of investor protection rules, notably under the form of information disclosure (Prospectus and Transparency Directives, Market Abuse Directive) for issuers and conduct of business rules for investment firms and credit institutions. It is often claimed that the European directives are based on the paradigm of maximum harmonisation, thus creating a common law (ius commune) in the field of investor protection in Europe. In this paper, we raise some questions as to this proposition, stressing the need to distinguish between the level (maximum or not) and the substantive scope (what has been harmonised?) of harmonisation. Furthermore, we submit that both the continued fragmentation regarding supervision of the harmonised standards, notably in the field of conduct of business rules, and the absence of common rules on private enforcement through civil liability may generate disincentives for different actors to adequately take advantage of the potential benefits of market integration.
The Use of XBRL in the European Financial Markets
The use of XML and its related languages especially XBRL in the financial markets is likely to raise much attention the next few years. Different projects are being studied: linkage of the business registers, remote access to the annual accounts, organising the distribution of the financial information by listed companies, use for reporting by banks and insurance companies, as some applications that are already in place or being developed. The impact of an efficient information distribution system could help protect creditors, make cross border relations more secure and support the competitiveness of our financial markets.
Shareholder Mobility in Five European Countries
This paper provides new evidence on the evolution of ownership of a large sample of companies in five European countries - Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the UK - between 1999 and 2008 to understand ownership dynamics and the influence of legal developments on ownership patterns. Ownership concentration decreased at a moderate pace over the last 8 years in three countries - France, Italy and Belgium - but increased in two others, Spain and the UK. In France, Italy and Belgium approximately half of the companies have a de jure controlling shareholder. In Spain and the UK the largest group of companies have a shareholder with a voting block between 10% and 30%. In all civil law countries in this study, the majority of the largest shareholders are families or non-financial companies. However there are large differences between the civil law countries as well as over time. Banks remained major shareholders in a large number of Spanish companies and acquired smaller blocks in British companies. All over Europe, there is evidence that insurance companies acquire large stakes, though not controlling voting blocks. In France and Italy privatisation processes continue and the number of companies with government shareholdership is reduced. In all countries more companies are confronted with foreign shareholders. Foreign shareholders are the largest group of shareholders, measured by the number of companies in which a shareholder class is present in all countries, with Spain as the only exception. The analysis of ownership structures enables a more detailed analysis of its relationship with company and securities law. Lele and Siems (2008) developed the LLSV's index of investor protection rights in two indices relating to the protection against board and management on the one hand and protection against other shareholders on the other hand. Their analysis is used to study the relationship between company and securities law development and ownership structures. The results by and large confirm LLSV's thesis, especially for France, though the relationships are relatively weak. The increase of the anti-director index resulted in smaller voting blocks in hands of the largest shareholder. As the anti-blockholder index did not improve in France, (other minority) shareholders increased their voting blocks as a second best substitute.
The New Belgian Law on Takeover Bids
The present paper gives a systematic overview of the takeover regulation as applicable in Belgium after the implementation of the Takeover directive. It contains a high level description of the main provisions of the new law of April 1, 2007, and the Royal Decree of 27 April 20071, implementing the EU Directive on Takeover Bids.
Hoofdlijnen van het Belgische recht van de vennootschapsgroepen
This paper gives an overview of the Belgian law, essentially case law on the subject of company groups. Apart from aspects of definitions and scope, it divides the subject in internal group law, and external group law. The former deals with the relations between the actors within a group, and their rights andduties in a group relationship. The latter focuses on the liability of group firms for acts, or contracts that created liabilities for other group entities.
Standardisation by law and markets, especially in financial services
Standardisation techniques are used in a very broad range of financial transactions: technical standards, model contracts, codes of conduct, accounting rules, and even experiments with alternatives to European regulations. Especially in the financial services field, where mass production and relational stability are essential, standardisation is an integral part of the existing framework and its regulation. The functions of standardisation are manifold and extend even to issues like mutual recognition. The relationship of these techniques with the legal system is a complex one, relying on a wide range of instruments such as contract provisions, explicit references in the law, default rules, good business practices, and so on. Enforcement is partly based on legal instruments, but also on the market.
Third high level FEE conference on key issues in audit regulation in the EU
2007 and even more 2008 have been crucial years in the financial markets. The events of this period are likely to have a profound repercussion on the development of the system of financial regulation and the many other fields that are directly linked to the financial markets. The systemic nature of the risks that have now appeared call for strong action on the part of all players. And, the auditors although they have been well taken care of in the Sarbanes Oxley Act, are likely to be affected in certain respects as well. Differently from the previous crisis of 2001-2002 and due to Enron and other similar cases, the audit profession has this time not been the prime target of public criticism. That privilege is now reserved to the Credit Ratings Agencies, who can expect a serious dose of regulation and oversight. The audit profession has been confronted with the same reaction after the Enron debacle that lead directly to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other comparable initiatives in several parts of the world. The fall-out from Sarbanes Oxley is increasingly visible in Europe as well. In the globalised world of today, incidents happening in one corner, immediately affect the rest of the economies, and regulation also travels globally, albeit at a lower speed. That is the reason why we should follow these trends with vigilant interest.
The Takeover Bid Directive, light and darkness
The 2004 takeover directive has been implemented in most EU states. It has achieved a very welcome harmonisation of the securities regulatory provisions, especially by introducing a rather strict home rule regime along with mutual recognition, and levelling the conditions for bids (irrevocability, disclosure, equal treatment) although regretfully many concepts remain undefined ("equitable" price, concert action, etc.).
The company law provisions of the directive, and mainly the rules on anti-takeover defences have, generally spoken, not been implemented by the states. This refers to the more general debate on the role of the shareholder, often summarized in the slogan "one share, one vote"). Although originally supportive of OSOV, the Commission recently decide to drop that approach. This change of mood takes place on the background of more aggressive action of activist shareholders, the fear for hedge funds and the like, and the appearance of sovereign wealth funds.
Beëindigings-, exoneratie- en schadebedingen bij bijzondere overeenkomsten
De doelstelling van deze bijdrage bestaat erin aandacht te besteden aan beëindigings-, exoneratie- en schadebedingen bij bijzondere overeenkomsten. Deze bedingen worden in de praktijk frequent opgenomen in contracten, in het bijzonder in standaard- en toetredingscontracten. In deze bijdrage zalonderzocht worden welke grenzen het gemeen verbintenissenrecht, het recht inzake bepaalde bijzondere overeenkomsten en het consumentenrecht stellen aan de mogelijkheid om dergelijke bedingen in de overeenkomst op te nemen.
Information requirements as a tool to protect
The European Directive on Markets in Financial Instruments (hereafter MiFID) and its implementing Directive (hereafter Implementing Directive) impose on investment firms among others rules of conduct that have to be respected when providing investment services to their clients. The aim of these rules is to preserve the investors’ interests as shown by article 19 MiFID which determines that an investment firm must always act honestly, fairly and professionally in accordance with the best interests of its clients. Several of these rules of conduct create the obligation for the investment firmto provide the investor with information as well as the obligation to obtain information from the investor. The main idea behind these rules is that an investor will only be able to make an informed decision when he has been clearly informed about the services offered (and their risks) and that an investment firm can only provide investment services in accordance with the clients’ best interests when it knows what kind of customer it is dealing with. The aim of this paper is to discuss and evaluate these information requirements which vary depending on the category of investors to whom investment services are provided and depending on the kind of investment services that are being provided. More specifically, it aims at investigating whether these rules will be effective in protecting private investors.
De Wet Financiële Zekerheden en de notariële praktijk
The European Directive 2002/47EC on financial collateral arrangements has been implemented into Belgian law by the Law of 15 December 2004. From a domestic law point of view, this law has revolutionized the law on security interests in various respects: First, it validates in general the transfer of property as security interest for financial collateral. Furthermore, it facilitates the perfection of security interests, by eliminating the a priori consent by a court. Finally, it validates in general netting and close-out agreements. In view of the wide scope of the Belgian implementing legislation, which, contrary to the Directive, also includes natural persons, the law on financial collateral is likely to affect the security interests in notarial lending agreements with both professional and private borrowers. In this paper, we analyse in particular the practical implications of the Law of 15 December 2004 on mortgage credits granted to private individuals, as regulated by the Mortgage Credit Act of 4 august 2002. This raises specific issues in view of the priority of consumer protection regulation on the provisions of the Financial collateral Law.
Cross-border business in the EU and statutory disclosure requirements: Using IT as a catalyst for further market integration
This paper highlights the gap between the opportunities for EU companies to fully exploit their freedom of establishment on the one hand and the obstacles flowing from the mainly national organisation of information filing requirements through business registers on the other hand. From the point of view of companies, this gap partly neutralises the efforts deployed both in EU regulation and ECJ jurisprudence to guarantee the freedom of establishment. Companies are not only often obliged to file the same information in different countries but, due to the lack of information sharing between the countries in which they are established, investors, creditors and other stakeholders may suffer information asymmetries. We analyse the possible legal approaches towards organising the filing of information in a network model. The design of a technical solution to improve the cross-border sharing of corporate data in order to decrease administrative burdens on the freedom lies at the heart of the BRITE project. BRITE wishes to increase the interoperability of business registers, not only with a view to facilitating the cross-border establishment of companies, but also as a tool for other users (including public authorities) who can benefit from the better dissemination of public company data and the possibility to aggregate data at a European level. We submit that the European lawmakers have not yet fully exploited the possibilities offered by linking national public information systems into networks, although the Transparency Directive does envisage a network approach as regards the dissemination of company and financial information by listed companies.
The Corporate Governance ‘Codes of Conduct’ between State and Private Law
The relationship between corporate governance codes and the legal order in which they function is a complex one. This paper aims at analysing this relationship on the one hand by describing the factual situation in which the codes have been developed, and on the other the enforcement and monitoring of the codes in the different jurisdictions. It points to the weaknesses in enforcement and calls for developing stronger enforcement instrument without abandoning the self-regulatory nature of the codes.
De afschaffing van toondereffecten in Belgisch recht – de teloorgang van de Belgian dentist?
The law of 14 December 2005, as modified in April 2007, leads to the gradual abolition of bearer securities in Belgian law. In this paper, we highlight the main features of this law, and analyse a fewpractical issues arising from the conversion process for existing securities. The Belgian law illustrates the limitations inherent to the action of a national legislator, faced with regulatory competition and European law requirements. This leads to the preservation of limited possibilities for Belgian issuers to use bearer securities, mainly in the international bond markets, while the free movement of capital within the European Union leaves open possibilities for Belgian residents to acquire bearer securities.
Conflicts of Interest in Financial Services Groups (revised January 2008)
This paper analyses the relationship between the EU Capital Requirements Directive and the proposed Solvency II directive and their application in the context of parent-subsidiary relations and the general rules on groups of companies, as these are applied in the Member States of the EU. Art 68 and 69 of the CRD allow under certain conditions, to apply the capital requirement on a group approach, provided i.a. that there is no legal impediment to the prompt transfer of the own funds. This requirement may, incertain circumstances not be compatible with the common principles of the law on groups. The paper analyses to what extent in cases of financial distress the free transferability whether up - or downstream may be impeded. Similar issues could be raised in the Solvency context. (Revised - January 2008)
Delegation as an instrument for financial supervision
As financial integration proceeds, new issues are coming up in the field of supervision of financial markets. Some have to do with better cooperation among supervisors whether in the same field or on across-sectoral basis. The possibility to cooperate is however restricted by the public nature of most supervisors: public authorities should exercise their powers themselves, and risks should be borne by the legally empowered supervisor. In order to make supervision more effective, cross border delegation is needed. However, it is unclear to what extent supervisors can delegate, tasks as well as competences or decisions. This paper aims to give a first overview of the issues to be tackled including an attempt to analyse the liability question.
Shareholders in Action
Recently a new category of shareholders is manifesting itself: as activist shareholders they intervene in the actual running of the company, dictating its governance, determining its strategies, and often taking a very aggressive attitude against the incumbent management. Their action is severely criticized by the politicians or in the media, as being destructive of the firms, of enterprise values or of employment. The paper aims at describing the features of the activist shareholders, comparing them to their elderly brothers, the institutional investors, concluding that more disclosure should be available about them, while suggesting that in case they effectively take control of the company, a remedy similar to the mandatory bid may be considered.
De Wet van 14 december 2005 houdende afschaffing van de effecten aan toonder
This paper covers two main issues. Firstly, the Belgian Law of 14 December 2005 concerning abolishment of bearer securities is discussed. Bearer Securities have always been very popular amongst Belgian investors, since they allow for easy transferability, thus facilitating financial fraud and tax avoidance. In order to discourage such fraudulent actions, and in compliance with an international trend towards a mondernisation of securities law, the Law of 14 December 2005 aims at abolishing bearer securities. A phase out procedure is installed. Starting 1 January 2008, Belgian companies will only be able to issue registered or dematerialised securities. Certain types of securities even will be automatically converted into the dematerialised form. Eventually, all bearer securities will have to be converted into either one of the remaining forms, at 1 January 2013/2014. The Law of 14 December 2005 also adapts other legislation, mostly the Belgian Companies Code, by allowing for an electronical register to be held by the company, by providing for a bona fide third party purchaser- protection regarding dematerialised securities and so on. The second part of this paper deals with the regime of the dematerialised securities, as it can be expected that this type of securities will flourish due to the abolishment of bearer securities.
Governance of Collective Investment Schemes (CIS): Structural Support for Loyalty to Investors
Until recently, structural measures of good governance in collective investment schemes (CIS) received less attention than corporate governance of publicly traded companies. As a result of the trading scandals in the US mutual fund industry that have occurred over the last few years, however, this has changed. International institutions, such as the OECD and IOSCO, have studied the governance structures of CIS in their member countries and issued guidance principles and some countries have introduced new legal rules to optimize governance in view of the principle that CIS have to be managed in the exclusive interest of CIS investors.This paper, which is written in Dutch, discusses the governance structure of Belgian CIS from this perspective. Rules and practices relating to governance principles or instruments such as investor empowerment through general investor meetings, independence and autonomy of CIS management versus other actors in the financial markets, and, most importantly, the role of the depositary, are critically analyzed.The main conclusion of this review is that it is not and never has been the role of the depositary of the CIS to function as a gatekeeper to ensure loyalty from the CIS managers to the interests of the investors. In practice, it is also impossible for the depositary to fulfill this function, as the manager of the CIS will never be prepared to share the necessary information relating to its own interests with a sufficiently independent financial institution acting as a depositary for the CIS. Therefore, the only solution lies in strengthening the independence of CIS day-to-day management versus actors with diverging interests, together with scrutiny by independent outside directors of decisions potentially influenced by conflicts of interest.
Opportunities in the M
The first part of this paper gives an overview of the economic rationale of the squeeze-out right and the sell-out right. The squeeze-out right influences the dynamics of a tender offer, encourages the minority shareholders to tender and provides the bidder a tool to drive the free riding minority shareholders out of the company. The sell-out right offers the minority shareholders an instrument to consider the pre-take over value, the bid price and the post-take over value and accordingly to take the decision to use his right. The economic analysis illustrates that the triggering thresholds for a squeeze-out right and a sell-out right should be flexible enough in light of the different ownershipstructures of companies. In a second part of this paper the legal framework of the squeeze-out right and the sell-out right is examined. First, it is shown that an economically efficient flexible framework can be in conflict with the constitutional protection of private property. Next, the mandatory rules for the squeeze-out and sell-out rights in the European Takeover Directive and in five European Member States - Germany, United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands - are examined. The analysis shows that the straightforward economic analysis can not easily be transposed in a comprehensive regulatory framework. Part of it is due to the incomplete economic theory of the squeeze-out right and sell-out right. This is the case for the assessment of the price as the parties involved have conflicting interests. Courts, parties, independent experts, supervisory authorities all play a role in a different degree in the different countries. Next, there are national policy considerations. Third, some rules suggest that the economic theory is ignored. Finally, the European Takeover Directive is considered as another layer of legislation on top of the national rules. Theharmonization efforts of the European Union are, if any, not successful. It can be expected that corporate mobility will compel legislators to offer an effective and efficient squeeze-out and sell-out system.
Is a Directive on Corporate Mobility needed?
After a short historical reminder, the paper states that corporate mobility remains a real political issue. To clarify matters it proposes to distinguish between a formal seat transfer, being the choice for a different legal regime, and a de facto seat change that would not affect the applicable company law,the host state not being entitled to apply its company law rules. A future directive should be based on this distinction, prescribing the formalities for the former, and stating clearly the consequences of the latter, thereby also defining the limits within which the general good can be invoked.
Corporate Governance Codes and their Implementation
Good governance - both by public institutions and by private business - is considered one of the building blocks upon which economic success is based. Hence the efforts undertaken by many international and national organisations and bodies to improve governance, especially by enacting rules, standards or recommendations, have to be respected and serve as models against whichdirectors of these institutions or business firms can measure their conduct. Corporate governance is a subject that is notoriously difficult to define in one sentence. Some view corporate governance in the narrow sense, dealing with the structure and functioning of the boards of directors, and their relationship to management. This narrow definition is the one often found in corporate governance codes. A broader definition includes a company's relationships with shareholders, especially in organisations with concentrated ownership. Finally, academic studies dealing with governance broaden the definition to all internal relationships within a business, including the issues raised by the conduct of shareholders, especially institutional investors, the functioning of the general meeting and the company's relationship with the financial markets. As this article relates to the implementation of corporate governance codesand not to their substance, the narrow definition will be followed.
Financial Market Integration in the post-FSAP era
This paper looks into the concepts underpinning the current generation of capital market integration directives, that follow the "Lamfalussy-approach" . In particular, we examine whether the Level 1-directives are based on minimum or maximum harmonization. We submit that the European lawmakers have failed to clarify this issue, thereby reducing legal certainty for the various stakeholders(suppliers, investors and supervisors alike). In addition, the adoption of yet a new harmonisation technique runs the risk of creating inconsistencies with the previous generation of financial marketintegration directives, adopted under the 1992 Internal market program. Finally, we look at how the Prospectus Directive and MiFID divide regulatory and supervisory powers between home and hoststate.
Grensoverschrijdende fusies na Sevic en de Tiende Richtlijn
This paper deals with cross border mergers between EU companies after the landmark Sevic judgment of the European Court of Justice and the adoption of the Tenth directive on cross border mergers. I draw attention to the very broad interpretation of the concept of "establishment" theCourt has embraced in Sevic. One of the major conclusions from Sevic is that member states may not subject cross border mergers (within the EU) to more stringent conditions than "domestic" mergers. Although the facts which gave rise to Sevic related to a company absorbing a foreign one, I argue that, contrary to what a number of German commentators of the case have argued, Sevic can also be invoked by a company that wants to be absorbed through merger by a foreign company. Whereas the Tenth Directive essentially only applies to limited liability companies Sevic is also applicable to partnerships (in the sense of companies with unlimited liability). Furthermore, Sevic lends support to the thesis that split ups of companies also fall within the ambit of freedom of establishment as guaranteed by articles 43 and 48 of the EC Treaty. On the other hand, companies that cannot take part in a domestic legal merger, cannot derive a right from the Treaty to take part in a crossborder merger. After a brief description of the actual content of the Tenth directive I argue that, again contrary to what some German authors (e.g. Kallmeyer/Kappes) have written, member states may add procedural rules for cross border mergers to the rules provided for in the Tenth directive, as long as these rules are compatible with freedom of establishment and do not make a cross border merger procedurally more difficult than a domestic merger. Indeed, such rules may be necessary to answer the many procedural questions the Directive hasn’t answered. I conclude by arguing that, in spite of Daily Mail, companies derive a right to cross borders transfers of their seats (reincorporation abroad without interruption of legal personality) directly from art. 48 of the Treaty.
The Law of 14 December 2005 concerning the abolishment of bearer securities
This short article assesses two new Belgian laws. The first law abolishes bearer securities. The transition period has different steps and will be finalised at the end of 2015. Not all transition problems have been resolved. It is unclear who will bear the costs for destroying the bearer shares. The second law limits liability of auditors for legal audits and other assurance work and amends the professional secrecy rules. As in the former law, not all issues have been resolved. An audit term lasts three years. There is noindication how to deal with different damage claims.
Future Priorities for the Action Plan on Modernising Company law: a response to the consultation document
This document contains the response of the Financial Law Institute to the consultation document of the European Commission on Future Priorities for the Action Plan on Modernising Company Law and Enhancing Corporate Governance. It is the fruit of a debate about the direction of European company law within the Financial Law Institute. The consultation document to which this is a response is available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/company/consultation/index_en.htm. Two important points we’ve tried to make, among many others, are that a) more transparency is needed about ownership of shares and who can exercise the voting power attached to shares, esp. in view of developments on the capital markets such as stock lending b) the introduction of a mandatory "one share one vote" rule is not supported by the available evidence on the efficiency of such a rule. Such a rule could on the contrary be a strong incentive not to take firms public even where this would be efficient for them.
Regulation and Liability of Credit Rating Agencies under Belgian Law
This article is the Belgian report concerning rating agencies to the 2006 Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law to be held in Utrecht. After describing credit rating practices in Belgium, the report considers the extent to which Belgian regulation requires, or relies upon, credit ratings. It then describes Belgian regulation applicable to credit rating agencies and credit rating activities. The remainder of the report analyzes when Belgian law provides civil remedies against a rating agency which issues a credit rating not correctly reflecting the creditworthiness of the rated entity.
De Belgische Corporate governance codes en regelgeving: twee handen op één buik?
Corporate governance develops at the speed of light. Recently in Belgian two corporate governance codes were issued: one for stock exchange listed companies (Code Lippens, December 2004) and one for non-listed entities (Code Buysse, September 2005). This article briefly assesses the similarities and differences of both codes and in particular analyses the legal enforcement mechanisms of both codes. Notwithstanding the lack of mandatory rules, several legal mechanisms oblige companies to carefully consider their corporate governance and governance publication policy.
Management, Decision-making and Supervision of Belgian State Owned Enterprises: an Inefficient Patchwork?
Corporate In April 2005 the OECD published its guidelines on the corporate governance of state-owned enterprises (S0E). Its first guideline reads that "…SOEs should not be exempt from the application of general laws and regulations… the legal and regulatory framework should allow sufficient flexibility for adjustments in the capital structure of SOEs". In 1991, long before the corporate governance discussions hit the European coasts, Belgium developed a proper regulatory governance framework for autonomous stateowned enterprises, including specific checks and balances. The general commercial company code is applicable for the remaining issues. However, due to constitutional developments and divergent views on industrial policy, federal and regional Parliaments modified the applicable rules of a large number of SOE’s, pushing the checks and balances to the edge. This paper assesses the 1991 corporate governance framework for Belgian autonomous SOE’s, compares governance features of these entities and considers the differences with the commercial corporate governance practices. The paper starts with a brief introduction of the Belgian federal state and concludes with some thoughts for future developments.
De Code Lippens versus de Code Buysse: van degelijk besturen over naleven of uitleggen tot afdwingen?
Corporate governance develops at the speed of light. Recently in Belgian two corporate governance codes were issued: one for stock exchange listed companies (Code Lippens, December 2004) and one for non-listed entities (Code Buysse, September 2005). This article assesses the similarities and differences of both codes and discusses the role of professional advisors.
De inbreng van een verhuurd onroerend goed: Tegenwerpelijkheid van de lopende huurovereenkomst aan de verkrijgende vennootschap
This article studies the contribution in kind of leased real estate and the position of the tenant. It starts with an overview of the basic principles of company law with respect to contributions in kind. The paper assesses the tenant’s prevailing rights against a subsequent acquirer – id est a company –of the leased property. That said, we address the question to what extent a contribution in kind is similar to a sales agreement vis-à-vis the position of the tenant. Originally, leases were subject to general law, meaning that an acquirer was free to evict the tenant without compensation and without offering a renewal of the lease. Practical concerns have led to the creation of a general legal regime to protect the tenant and special legal regimes for residential, commercial and agricultural leases. Only for the former two we study the similarities of sale and contribution and we stress the importance of the concept of a "fixed legal lease date". We deal with the additional mandatory grounds a company has to take into account to end a residential and commercial lease contract which was contributed in kind. Finally we look at the contractual pre-emptive rights of the tenant in case of a contribution in kind of the leased immoveable property.
Het financiële recht, naar Europese maatstaven herijkt
De financiële reglementering is in 2004-2006 in een stroomversnelling geraakt. Niet enkel de omvang, maar ook de diepgang van de vernieuwingen, zullen bij de marktdeelnemers ernstige aanpassingen vergen. In deze bijdrage wordt gepoogd over de bijzonderheden heen, enkele krachtlijnen aan te geven. In de recent gevolgde benadering zijn de maatregelen meer alomvattend, vooral in het effectenrecht, maken zij gebruik van de soepeler "Lamfalussy" instrumenten, en zijn zij minder gericht op harmonisering dan op marktordening zonder meer. De beleggersbescherming is zowel zaak van deinformatie, als van de voorschriften voor de tussenpersonen. Voor marktmisbruik worden niet enkel preventieve, maar ook repressieve en eengemaakte onderzoeksinstrumenten in het vooruitzicht gesteld. De slotbemerking kan zijn: inzake regulering staat men in feite reeds voor een eengemaakte Europese regulator.
Conflicts of Interest, especially in Asset Management
Until 15 or 20 years ago, asset management was largely the task of an (often large) department of a bank that dealt with securities. It was fully integrated in the overall banking business and asset managers were usually acquainted with the transactions the bank was engaged in.
Reforming the Second Company Law Directive
This paper gives a first analysis of the new directive amending the 2nd company law directive (dir 2006/68). The four changes are analysed and criticized. The rules doing away with an expert opinion in case of contributions in kind are useful, although their scope will appear quite limited. On buy back of shares the directive merely does away with the 10% ceiling, a historical error anyway. Instead comes a limitation to undistributable assets (capital undistributable reserves). The hopes for relaxation of the regime on financial assiatence has not been achieved: the prohibition is abolished, but the procedures are heavy and the reservation requirement excessive. A missed chance!
Corporate governance, jaarverslag en transparantie: een moeilijke driehoeksverhouding
Corporate governance and disclosure remain issues on the agenda of boards, regulators and legislators. Corporate reporting shifted from the disclosure of financial results towards informing the stakeholders about a wide variety of topics, including corporate governance. Whereas for financial reporting a detailed framework was developed, the other reporting requirements were more or less introduced by "accident" or on an ad hoc basis. This article discusses the Belgian and European developments of reporting on corporate governance issues in the annual report. Next, it shows that over a period of less than ten years, companies allow stakeholders to familiarize with and get to know their structures, strategies and business ethics. This study concludes that the time has come for consolidation of the governance reporting framework in order to help companies in their search of optimal compliance.
Conflicts of Interest in Institutional Asset Management : Is the EU Regulatory Approach Adequate?
This article seeks to contribute to the discussion concerning the adequacy of the legal responses to conflicts of interest in institutional asset management. After defining the legal concept of a conflict of interest in general, the insights of economic theory, especially agency theory, are called upon to pinpoint the reason why such conflicts are a problem that warrants special legal attention. Possible conflicts of interest faced by professional asset managers are identified and the reasons why the problems caused by these conflicts warrant specific government intervention are discussed. The article then describes what the legal responses to conflicts of interests problems in asset management have been, in particular in the new European Market in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). These responses are then analysed taking into account the elements that economic theory show to be the key characteristics of the conflicts of interests problem and conclude that these legal responses address the problem from the wrong perspective and hence are lacking in certain critical respects.
Competing for Legal Certainty: The Regime of Dematerialised Securities in Belgian Law
The legal framework for account based and dematerialised securities in Belgian law has undergone numerous modifications over the last years. The purpose of this short paper is to highlight the main features of the legal regime for all subcategories of dematerialised and account based securities. The analysis illustrates that promoting legal certainty as concerns the rights attached to the securities, transfers and security interest on securities is critical for maintaining confidence in the system and, hence, attracting custody and settlement business.
Consumer protection relating to contracts concluded online: the European point of view
During the last decade the European Union has enacted several directives relating to the distance selling of goods and services. The aim of this paper is to determine the degree of protection a European consumer enjoys when concluding a contract on-line. More specifically, we will address the followingquestions: which information must be provided to the consumer, what is the meaning and extent of the right of withdrawal, how is the consumer protected when a third, non-authorised person uses his electronic payment instrument on the internet and which law applies in case a consumer concludes a contract with a person established in another country?
Aspecten van gemeen- en strafrechterlijke schuldeisersbescherming bij herstructureringen
Deze tekst bevat een onderdeel van de bijdrage die Philip Traest en ikzelf geschreven hebben voor de Postuniversitaire Cyclus Willy Delva 2004-2005 te Gent en Antwerpen. Het fragment behandelt vooreerst een aantal klassieke, voornamelijk burgerrechtelijke technieken waarop schuldeisers beroep kunnen doen wanneer hun schuldenaar, al dan niet met behulp van vennootschapscontructies, probeert activa weg te maken. Er wordt eerst gefocust op een aantal betwiste vragen betreffende de toepassing van de actio pauliana en van het veinzingsleerstuk (bv. stromanoprichting). Vervolgens komen enkele actiemiddelen aan bod die tijdens de vereffening van een vennootschap nog kunnen aangewend worden (beslag, nietigverklaring sluiting vereffening, faillissement tijdens vereffening, vraag naar persoonlijke aansprakelijkheid van aandeelhouders die activa hebben ontvangen). Tenslotte wordt vrij uitgebreid ingegaan op de sterfhuisonstructie, waarbij de gezonde delen van een vennootschapsgroep in veiligheid gebracht worden voor besmetting door de zieke delen. Een aantal belangrijke aspecten van de problematiek komen niet aan bod, omdat zij een aparte bijdrage vragen (bv. herstructureringen in het kader van art. 41 Wet gerechtelijk akkoord).
Corporate governance op het snijvlak tussen wetgeving en aanbeveling: een praktijkstudie
In December 2004 the Belgian Corporate Governance Commission issued a new Belgian Code. The Code recommends listed entities to inform the shareholders and investors about their corporate governance practices at the 2005 general meeting, although companies only have to report their compliance from 2006 onwards. This paper analysed the information disclosed in the annual report, the agenda of the general meeting 2005 and the companies' websites. A large majority of the companies already comply with the majority of the recommendations of the new Code. However, it remains an open question whether companies will disclose detailed information about the remuneration of the management. A more detailed analyses shows that the regulatory framework does not guarantee the publication of transparent information.
Informatieverstrekking over de opdrachten en vergoeding van de commissaris
This article studies the disclosure of information related to the external auditor in the annual reports and other company filings of Belgian listed corporations. First, the legal requirements are assessed. The Belgian law does not compel companies to disclose the audit fee. However, companies must identify the non audit services as well as the remuneration of the latter in the annual report. In 2002 Parliament introduced even more detailed rules related to the disclosure of non audit services and remuneration. Due to the absence of a statutory instrument, these rules are not yet applied. Next, the study presents facts and figures. 50% of the companies voluntarily disclose the statutory audit fee. On average the auditor receives 61.000 euro, although the median value is only 34.000 euro. Only 75% identify non audit services and disclose the fee for these services. The average fee for non audit services is 115.000 euro, the median is only 7.700. For a limited number of companies the ratio non audit fee/audit fee could be calculated. At company level the average is 1,6, the median 0,7. At group level the figures are 0,9 and 1,1. The paper concludes that investors need more information to assess the position of the Belgian auditor.
Do Not Attack the Watchdog! Banking Supervisor’s Liability after Peter Paul
Banking supervisory liability has recently received much attention both from supervisory authorities themselves as from academics, thanks to the preliminary proceedings brought by the German Supreme Court before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in case C-222/02, Peter Paul. In its judgement of 12 October 2004, the ECJ has refused to apply Francovich type Member State liability to the obligations incumbent on Member States to exercise a prudential supervision over credit institutions pursuant to the various EU banking directives.
After providing a general overview of banking supervisory liability in the laws of different EU Member States, we analyse and proceed to a critical assessment of the Peter Paul judgment. We submit that the Court has been too restrictive in refusing to find in prudential supervision a clear depositor protection oriented dimension. In our view, the Court has overreacted to the potential financial consequences of holding the State liable for negligence in the exercise of prudential supervision. We demonstrate that Francovich type liability allows to strike a fair balance between the rational expectations from depositors as to the quality of supervision on the one hand, and the need to take account of the complicity and discretion of the prudential supervisor in the assessment of liability on the other hand.
Chronique de jurisprudence et législation communautaire. Intermédiaires et marchés financiers (1er octobre 2003 1er novembre 2004)
This paper outlines the main developments in regulation and case-law on European banking and financial law for the period fall 2003-fall 2004. With regard to case-law, specific attention is devoted to the landmark CaixaBank and Peter Paul cases.
Who’s Afraid of Peter Paul? The European Court of Justice to Rule on Banking Supervisory Liability.
For many years, courts in various EU Member States have been confronted to liability claims directed against banking supervisors for alleged negligence in exercising prudential supervision over banks. In view of the increasing "Europeanization" of banking supervision, it is not surprising that depositors attempt to circumvent limitations of liability under domestic law, by invoking "Francovich-type" Member State liability for negligent supervision. In case C-222/02 (Peter Paul and others), the German supreme court has referred the issue to the ECJ, in order to ascertain whether Francovich-liability could be applied in the field of prudential supervision. The opinion of Advocategeneral Stix-Hackl in this case is negative. In this paper, we analyse the arguments set forth by the advocate general to sustain this conclusion, and formulate a few critical remarks in the opinion.
Developments in European Financial Regulation
Now that most of the regulatory measures have been taken to implement the Financial Services Action Plan, attention is drawn to the implementation of the numerous directives and regulations that have been enacted. New techniques leading to more regulatory convergence are being developed. The Committee of European Securities Regulators has recently published an outline for more convergence, both for rule making, but also for supervisory convergence. Home and host issues are of central importance here. As integration moves forward, there is an increasing need for rebalancing the distribution of competences between national cooperating supervisors.
Implementation of the Corporate Governance Codes
Corporate governance codes have been developed in all European States. These instruments often reflect a different economic and political background. This factor can play an important role as to their self nature. Implementation of the codes is generally left to the companies themselves. However, are there other enforcement instruments and should external parties - such as securities supervisors - have a role to play in this matter? EA comparative overview outlines the state of affairs in a selected number of EU jurisdictions.
Industry-specificities and Size of Corporations: Determinants of Ownership Structures
This paper analyses ownership concentration in six European countries and empirically studies the rent-seeking theory. This theory states that ownership concentration not only depends on the level of investor protection but also on company-specific and industry-specific parameters. This study analyses the sector specific ownership patterns of listed corporations. The results only partially confirm the influence of industry-specific characteristics. Different industries are characterised by different shareholder concentration patterns. Hence and in light of the rent-seeking theory it is plausible that company's specific characteristics, like the identity of the largest shareholder, the risk of the firm, etc. influence rent-seeking behavior.
LVMH v. Morgan Stanley: De invloed van belangenconflicten op de buitencontractuele aansprakelijkheid van financiële analisten wegens incorrecte berichten en opinies
In a potentially landmark decision, the Paris Commercial Court has ordered the investment bank Morgan Stanley to compensate LVMH for damages caused by incorrect information and unwarranted recommendations critical of LVMH issued by Morgan Stanley analysts. This article focuses on the civil law aspects of the judgment, and in particular on the impact of conflicts of interest on research analysts' tort liability. Although certain aspects of the Court's reasoning can be criticized, the implicit principles applied by the Court to reach its conclusions are not only consistent with civil law tort theory, but also analogous to the treatment of conflicts of interest in other areas of the law, such as Anglo-American fiduciary law. However, the arbitrary nature of the amount of damages awarded creates excessive uncertainty for the research analysis sector.
Overdracht van effecten: aspecten van verrekening en vereffening van beursorders
After a very brief introduction to securities clearing, this text discusses transactions in book-entry securities as governed by the Belgian Royal Decree nr. 62, as coordinated on January 27 2004. This Decree is applicable to the settlement activities of Euroclear NV/S.A., irrespective of where securities are actually kept in custody, and is consequently of international importance, especially since it governs important aspects of the settlement of trades on Euronext.
Corporate governance: een wettelijke (r)evolutie. De gevolgen van de wet
This paper assesses the consequences of the 2002 Belgian Corporate Governance reform on the organisational behavior of listed companies. First, the companies that have split the unitary board in a board of directors and a management board are studied. Next, the election of independent board members is assessed. Third, the uncertainties concerning the audit committee are highlighted. Section four briefly analyses how many articles of incorporation explicitly mandated the board to set up board committees. The introduction of the record date and of the written general meeting is studied insection five. Section six concludes and proposes some modifications to optimize the Belgian legal corporate governance framework.
De aansprakelijkheid van vennootschapsbestuurders en commissarissen
This article offers a general overview of the legal rules on directors' and auditors' liability under Belgian law, and discusses af few of the recent developments in this area, such as the controversial new rules on the individual right of company creditors to sue directors after a company has been declared bankrupt, the apparent immunity of directors for their culpa in contrahendo following a 2001 decision by the cour de cassation, the respective duties of directors and auditors in discovering and reacting to accounting fraud, and criminal liability of auditors. The article also offers some suggestions concerning the question whether different standards of care (should) apply to executive and non-executive directors.
De advocaat en de wet betreffende de minnelijke invordering van schulden van de consument
This paper briefly analyses the new legislation related to the procedures of friendly settlement of consumer debts. The law of December 20, 2002 tackles two specific kinds of settlements. The first concerns the creditor who personally settles the debt. The second relates to the, sometimes questionable, practices of debt-collecting agencies. For both kind of settlements, the legislation imposes the application of specific rules. The paper especially focuses on the rules attorneys must apply if the creditor requests him or her to intervene in the friendly settlement of debts.
De Amerikaanse Sarbanes-Oxley Act en haar uitvoeringsmaatregelen
This paper examines the American Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the orders of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board in pursuance of the SOX and the studies of the General Accounting Office and the SEC. In particular, the consequences of the orders of the PCAOB to register, be inspected or investigated for the Belgian accounting firms are highlighted. The study further focuses on the independence of auditors, audit committees, certification of financial statements, disclosure of financial information, whistle blowing practices and the requirement of attorneys to blow the whistle, and conflicts of interests of financial analists. For most topics the paper refers to the requirements of the Belgian legislation and the conflicts of laws. Finally, the paper provides an overview of the results of the studies ordered by the SOX.
De notarisvennootschap bekeken door een vennootschapsrechtelijke bril.
This paper discusses the specific rules on professional companies between notaries from the perspective of general company law. The two sets of rules are not always compatible, nor has the legislator always resolved these conflicts.
De nieuwe VZW-wet: de wet van 27 juni 1921 na de wet van 2 mei 2002
This text, which has no academic pretensions and is intended for practitioners, discusses the changes introduced by the Act of May 2 2002 to Belgian legislation on non-profit organizations. It accompanies a presentation I made during a conference organized by the Bruges Bar and the Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen.
Het huurrecht en de nieuwe bestuursstructuur van de NV
The Belgian Parliament has changed the management system of the public limited liability company in 2002. Until September 1, 2002 the only model a public limited liability company could opt for was the one-tier board model. In this regime, the board of directors has the most extensive power to managethe company. The new Act introduced an optional system to make it possible to choose between the classic one-tier model and a modified one-tier structure with a board of directors and a management board. The powers vested in the management board are determined in Article 524 Belgian Companies' Code. All powers of the board of directors are included with the exception of deciding on the general policy of the company and those powers explicitly vested in the board of directors. The board of directors has the duty to supervise the management board. The law does not indicate what "general policy" is. Second, there are no new rules on representation of the company. This paper discusses the consequences of the absence of clear rules on "general policy" and "representation". Renting contracts are used to illustrate the difficulties of the new system.
Het Hof van Cassatie en de extra-contractuele aansprakelijkheid van vennootschapsbestuurders
This article (in Dutch) is our contribution to the Liber amicorum in honour of Professor Christian De Wulf (no relation), who until this year taught at the University of Ghent. The article deals with the Belgian approach of tort liability of company directors towards third parties. It applauds the efforts the cour de cassation undertook during the 1990Õs and in a 2001 ruling to unify the liability regimes of all kinds of agents, including company directors. It criticizes, both on dogmatic grounds and from a policy perspective, the attempts by certain authors to argue that limited liability or the fact that directors are considered to be organs of the company would imply that they should not be held liable towards third parties for their negligence. The article argues that the danger of excessive director liability can be avoided through a correct application of general Belgian tort law., esp. the principle that there is no presumption under Belgian law that negligence on the part of the company has been caused by negligence, e.g. lack of monitoring, on the part of the directors. To further protect directors against judicial activism, the article favours the introduction into Belgian law of a modified version of the American business judgment rule.
The Belgian European Company: How to align Belgian company law?
The discussions about a legal framework for the European company (SE) had continued for more than 30 years before the Council Regulation No 2157/2001 was finally adopted in October 2001. The national law of the Member States may not be inconsistent with the Regulation, must offer the necessary legal framework to establish an SE, and must allow for an optimal functioning of the SE. This paper focuses on the Belgian company law in force and indicates where new rules need to be established before October 2004. This paper starts with the basic rules for the establishment of an SE in Belgium. It continues with the rules on the management structure. It highlights thepossibilities of a transfer of seat. The Regulation refers to the rules on "national" public limited liability companies. for a large number of issues on the formation and the governance of an SE. Nevertheless, the paper indicates that the Belgian Companies' Code conflicts with the Regulation. In that case, the Belgian SE must apply the Regulation. Hence, due to the reference of the Regulation, it is a necessity to adapt the Belgian legislation by October 2004. A well-developed two-tier board structure must be offered by the Belgian Companies' Code. Furthermore, the Belgian rules that govern the general meeting and the transfer of the seat need to be modified. The involvement of employees must be studied.
This paper provides an analysis of the rules under Belgian law on founders' liability in limited liability companies. The conditions attached to the various liability regimes are analysed, having regard to the case law. Finally, we examine a few issues related to founders' liability and corporate restructuring, highlighting some interpretation issues concerning effective application of the founders' liability regimes.
U zal uw facturen op tijd betalen. Nieuwe wetgeving rond de bestrijding van betalingsachterstand
By law of 2 August 2002, Belgium has implemented the European Directive 2000/35/EC on combating late payment in commercial transactions into national law. This paper analyses the provisions of the Belgian law and examines to which extent the law fully complies with the European Directive. After examining the scope and the main principles of the law and of the directive, we specifically examine the relationship between the new law of 2 August 2002 and the existing techniques in general contract law with respect to interests for late payment and contract law penalties. Finally, we analyse to which extent lawyers' fees incurred by late payment can be incorporated into contract law clauses after the law of 2002.
Challenging the prudential supervisor: liability versus (regulatory) immunity
Over the last decades, bank failures in different EU-countries have increasingly led to liability claims being directed against supervisory authorities for alleged negligence or improper conduct in the course of exercising prudential supervision over banks. The basic assertion of this paper is that integrated markets within the European Union, and in the near future, also including Central and Eastern European countries, should function under more or less similar rules as regards possible supervisory liability. After having analysed the existing legal regime as regards to supervisory liability in different EU-countries, we examine to which extent supervisory liability, as far as it is related to the European banking directives, could be directly based on EU-law. We argue that requirements set by the European Court of Justice in this respect could be met as far as prudential supervision is based on obligations deriving from the EUbanking directives. In our view, this situation does not create negative effects, as the European case law allows to duly take into account the complexity of prudential supervision and the discretion left to supervisory authorities in performing their functions.
The transfer of the company’s seat in European company law
After the Centros case in 1999, the Europe Court of Justice has again, delivered a significant judgment dealing with the legal situation of cross-border establishment in the EU by companies establishing themselves in other Member States. In the Überseering case of November 5, 2002, the Court basically holds that Member States should allow incorporated in other Member states to freely enter their territory, according to the rules under which they have been formed in their state of origin.The case constitutes another landmark on the road towards the more free circulation of companies in Europe. Whether it introduces the incorporation theory as the European rule, is open to doubt, as the Court has exclusively relied on the Treaty rules on free establishment. It seems that the Court has rather developed a new approach that could allow to bridge the differences between incorporation and real seat techniques. The paper deals with three items; a short overview of the existing opinions on the seat transfer in several of the European jurisdictions, an analysis of the Überseering case and its implications, an analysis of the rules, in the Regulation on the Statute for a European Company, of the rules on the transfer of the seat and the effect of the Überseering ruling on these provisions.
Belgisch vennootschapsrecht: op weg naar een alternatief Rijnlandmodel
On August 22, 2002 an act modernising corporate law and introducing a number of corporate governance innovations was published in the official Belgian Gazette. This paper discusses a number of these reforms and innovations. First some of the uncertainties concerning the mandatory rule to nominate an identified individual as the representative of a legal entity in a board of directors will be examined. Further, we will argue that the new legal board structure of the public limited company offers opportunities for optimizing the internal organisation of the company. Next the reform of the rules to mitigate conflicts of interests within groups of companies will be sketched. The system offers some advantages for investors but the procedure is burdensome for listed companies. Due to some major collapses, the Belgian legislator hasstrenghtened the rules on the independence of auditors: a cooling-off period of two years has been introduced, the company's auditor will no longer be allowed to provide a number of non-audit services for the audited firm, and an independent external committee will analyse whether certain specific non-audit services impair the independence of the auditor. The act also imposes an additional procedure if the value of the non-audit services exceedsthe value of the audit service. Finally some provisions concerning the general meeting have been modernised. The new act permits the organisation of a written general meeting and it makes it easier for institutional investors to take part in general meetings by requiring shareholders to be registered.This paper briefly describes the new rules, highlights some of the inconsistencies and problems and refers, where possible, to the Dutch system.
La réforme des marchés financiers. Le point de vue des banques
The Act of August 2, 2002 on the supervision of the financial sector and the financial services fundamentally reforms the organisation and supervision of the Belgian secondary markets for financial instruments. The Act is inspired by the recommendations on the reform of the European securities markets formulated by the Committee of Wise Men presided by Mr. Lamfalussy; it anticipates on the implementation of the EU Market Abuse Directive and modernises the conduct of business rules for financial intermediaries. The present paper focuses on the innovations in the Act, which will have animpact on the activities of Belgian credit institutions within a purely Belgian context and a wider European context. Critical remarks are made on the new supervisory regime for secondary markets and alternative trading systems, the framework for in-house order matching, the new conduct of business rules for financial intermediaries and the administrative regime for market abuse. The author concludes by welcoming the new rulemaking process regarding conduct of business providing for an open consultation procedure involving the financial sector.
Corporate Governance naar nieuw Belgisch recht
The new Belgian Corporate Governance Law. The Belgian Companies Code has recently been adapted to introduce a number of innovations that can be put under the heading of "corporate governance". The new rules clarify the position of the "management board", steering Belgian law somewhat in thedirection of a two tier board. The rules on parent-subsidiary transactions have been clarified and strengthened, by submitting these to the expert opinion of independent directors. More conspicuous will be the new rules on auditors and their independence. Three rules were introduced: one relating to non-audit services, the probihition to be specified in implementing decrees, a limitation on fees for non-audit services in comparison to audit fees, and finally a prohibition to serve, in any capacity,a company for which the auditor or his firm has been certifying the accounts. All these apply to the auditor, his assistants and partners, and the firms which he controls. Finally, some rules facilitate investors to take part in general meetings, especially by requiring registration of ownership on a "registration date". Published in: Corporate Governance naar nieuw Belgisch recht, TBH, 2002, 601-606.
Revision of the ISD Discussion of the Second Consultation Document.
The ISD of 1992 has had a considerable influence on the development and structuring, as well as on the integration of the securities markets in Europe. Over the last ten years, markets have developed considerably and some have integrated. Time has come to update the rules of the game, taking into account the need for a stronger integration of the securities markets in Europe, the considerable increase of crossborder transactions due to the introduction of the Euro and the phenomenal developments in the information technology that increasingly determine the structure of securities trading.
Company Law in Turmoil and the Way to Global Company Practice
In the first part of this paper, the point is argued that in practice, company law, at least as far as listed companies are concerned, is increasingly the product of international practice, which generally draws on American law and regulation. This effect is the consequence of the requirements imposed by the financial markets, by the existence of an international community of business leaders and advisors, etc. "Global Company Practice" may become increasingly important in real company life, notwithstanding the differences in regulation. In the second part, a first and preliminary analysis is made of the potentialextraterritorial effects of the new American regulations ( Sarbanes-Oxley Act, NYSE and Nasdaq corporate governance requirements) on European company practice. Increasingly integrated company practice may be the consequence. The voluntary nature which was so characteristic of the emergence of the "global company practice" is suffering heavily.
Bouwen, herbouwen en verbouwen in het Europese Vennootschapsrecht
In this article we highlight the main paths of evolution in European company law and assess the need to rebuild some of the fundamentals on which European company law at present is built. The issue is put in the wider perspective of recent efforts to modernise the EU regulatory framework, inter alia with the Lamfalussy and Winter reports. Finally, we examine whether recent developments in US company and securities law create a need to reassess some of the European company law rules as well. Published in: Nederlands Juristenblad, Kluwer, 2002, afl. 41, p. 2054-2060.
De invloed van het Europees recht op de grensoverschrijdende financiële dienstverlening. Liberalisering versus juridisch nationalisme
In the area of financial services, the creation of an internal market has, to a large extent, beenrealised through a number of harmonisation directives. Further initiatives are underway under theimpulse of the European Commission's Financial Services Action Plan.The present paper wishes to highlight some obstacles to effective market integration stemmingmainly from the way European financial law is applied in the EU Member States. The decentralisedimplementation of directives and enforcement of European law through national courts creates a riskof disparities amongst member states in the effective application of both primary and secondary EClaw. We illustrate this risk with reference to on the one hand the introduction of the Euro in theparticipating member states, and on the other hand the resistance of mainly supreme jurisdictions insome member states to submit questions of interpretation of EU financial law to the Court of Justice.Finally, the difficulties in applying EC financial law can also originate in the lack of clarity and consistency of EU law itself. The 1999 E-commerce Directive and the difficulties of applying thisdirective in the financial sector, illustrate this. We indicate some of the main difficulties associatedwith implementing this directive in the area of financial services.
De remuneratie van de raad van bestuur aan het begin van de 21e eeuw
This paper examines the remuneration package (2000) of the board of directors of 125 Belgian Euronext listed companies. The figures shed some light on the different remuneration schemes used by large Belgian companies. The first part gives an overview of the disclosure requirements. Section two analyses the corporate governance recommendations on the disclosure of information on the remuneration of board members. This part also includes a brief description of the number, composition and tasks of the remuneration committees. Notwithstanding the mandatory rules, not all companies disclose the total board remuneration. As much as one company in five publishes incomplete or incorrect information in its annual report. The average total remuneration package of the board of directors is 1,16 mln. Euros. However, some remuneration schemes significantly influence the average. The median value is 720.000 Euro. The Belgian board has an average of 10 members. The nonexecutive director is granted a fixed remuneration of approximately 12.500 Euro ayear. As indicated in some other studies, performance related pay is rather rare. The size of the company, the composition of the board and the ownership structure influence the total amount. The larger the company, the larger the relative number of executive members and contrary to the general belief the larger the stake of the largest shareholder, the higher the board's remuneration. Notwithstanding these statistically significant interdependences, the explanatory value of the model is rather small. The author suggests to enhance the disclosure of the remuneration packages and to install a proper enforcement regime.
Company groups in the face of prudential supervision
Groups of companies that are engaged in financial services raise specific issues, especially in terms of supervision. Traditionally supervision is based on different types of activities: banking insurance, investment services. The borderlines between these activities are increasingly blurred, while supervision is not integrated. Recently, some major financial services groups have been formed, spanning numerous jurisdictions, and engaging a wide range of financial activities, often referred to as Bank-Insurance groups. The future European directive on "financial conglomerates" will introduce more adequate mechanisms for the supervision of these groups on an aggregate basis. To be published in: Company groups in the face of prudential supervision, in Festschrift für Jean Nicolas Druey, Schulthess, Zürich, 2002, 675- 690 (ISBN 3 7255 4414 x)
Übernahmeangebote und Pflichtangebote
Mandatory take-over bids are a standard feature of the market for corporate control in Europe. The 13th directive proposed to introduce the mandatory bid, under certain conditions. In the meantime, almost all European states, the latest being Germany, have introduced the mandatory bid. This paper gives a comparative overview of some of the features of take-over regulation in several European jurisdictions. It points to the relationship between the introduction of a mandatory take-over and the specific features of corporate control in continental Europe, where most companies are dominated by controlling shareholders. Finally, the usefulness and pro and cons of the instrument are discussed. Published in: ZGR 2002, p. 520-545.
De onafhankelijkheid van de revisoren in een internationaal perspectief
Several recent developments have placed the issue of the auditor's independence in the spotlight. However, the discussion is not a new one. In November 2000, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued the "Revision of the Commission's Auditor Independence Requirements". These strict and detailed requirements should constitute a guarantee for the auditor's independence. The European Commission has set up a Committee on Auditing, which has prepared a draft recommendation in which some fundamental principles are included to obtain auditor's independence. Several professional federations, e.g. Fédération des Experts Comptables Européens and the International Federation of Accountants have revised their deontological rules, and have tightened up the principles of independence for the members of the federations. In Belgium as well the need arose to reconsider some of the principles concerning auditor's independence. A draft law was drawn up "the draft law on Corporate Governance", prohibiting the provision non-audit services. However, the effect of this prohibition can be minimised by an implementing order. This document compares the Belgian initiative to the existing international documents and regulations. We will also study the current Belgian law and disciplinary. The provision of nonaudit rules is the leitmotiv of this document. Published in: T.B.H. 2002, nr. 10, 790-811.
Rights of minority shareholders. Questionnaire and Guidelines for national reporters
Rights of minority shareholders. Questionnaire and Guidelines for national reporters. E. Wymeersch, G. Jakhian, B. Caeymaex, Belgium. In: De Belgische rapporten voor het congres van de "Académie internationale de droit comparé" te Brisbane, Bruylant, 2002, p. 409-474.
De onafhankelijkheid van de revisor
This paper evaluates the recent developments in Belgian law concerning statutory auditor independence. Several topics are discussed. In the first part of the paper, the author explains the present Belgianregulation concerning the protection of auditor independence. The second part focuses on the various conditions an auditor must fulfil in order to perform an objective audit and maintain investor confidence.The general regulatory approach as how to implement the independence requirements is the subject of much debate, whether a principles based or a rule based approach, are discussed, before, in the final part of this paper, providing some thoughts on the possible orientations of drafting future Belgianregulation in this area.
Economic Analysis of Corporate Law in Europe: an introduction
Firms are a crucial part of the explanatory set-up of the economy. They are the dominant organisation of the modern world. Only since the nineteen twenties, economists felt the need to go beyond the market approach and develop a theory to address the reasons for the existence of the institution known as a corporation, its boundaries and its internal organization. As companies are one of the most important social and economic powers in an advanced economy, an efficient corporate legal framework is of considerable importance. This paper describes the subject "corporation" and corporate law from a European perspective. The most important characteristics of a corporation and its economic (dis)advantages, legal personality, limited liability, centralized management and free transferability ofshares, will be discussed. Also issues of the internal structure of the corporation will be analysed. Ownership structures of European companies, conflicting interests, separation of ownership and control and mechanisms mitigating the agency costs due to this separation are briefly described. The last section summarizes the agency relationship between creditors, managers and shareholders.
De wet deugdelijk vennootschapsbestuur
In July 2002, the Belgian Parliament voted a new bill to modernise corporate law and to introduce a number of "corporate governance' innovations". These innovations include: force companies to nominate an identified individual to represent the company as a board member. This individual will be liable as if he was the board member; strengthen the independence of auditors: a cooling-off period of two years has been introduced, the company's auditor will no longer be allowed to provide a number of nonaudit services for the audited firm, an independent external committee will analyse, onrequest, whether certain specific non-audit services impair the independence of the auditor. This bill also imposes an additional procedure if the value of the non-audit services exceeds the value of the audit service; allow public limited companies to install a particular two tier board regime; new rules to solve conflicts of interests within groups of companies; allow companies to organise a "written" general meeting; to facilitate investors to take part in general meetings by requiring shareholders to be registered at a registration date. This paper briefly describes the new law and focuses on some of the difficulties for the practice of the accountant and the tax consultant.
Publiciteit: mag de advocaat nu alles?
The European Union has modernised the directive on misleading and comparative advertising in 1997. The Commission has stated in a 1999 decision that the prohibition to engage in comparative advertising restricts competition. In general, it must be allowed for the liberal professions to engage in comparative advertising, including the comparision of fees. The European Court of First Instance agrees with these considerations made by the Commission. The Belgian legislation has been adapted to these new European developments. In the summer of 2002 Parliament voted a new law to limit restrictions to engage in comparative advertising. This short paper discusses the application of the new rules on advertising engaged in by lawyers.
Revisoren en notarissen: de synergieën optimaliseren
The paper consists of a speech given by the author at the conference "auditors and notaries: optimising the synergies"?. This colloquium focused on the common problems that the professionals in both occupations are confronted with in corporate law matters. The author emphasizes that thorough, professional yet also prudent advise should be the guiding principle for the manner in which auditors and notaries fulfil their tasks. The authors then briefly examines some important new rules introduced by thenew Belgian Corporate Governance Act. These include the introduction of an (optional) "executive committee" next to the existing (mandatory) board of directors and the introduction of the possibility to hold the general meeting of shareholders in writing instead of in person. The act also allows for a legal person to be director of a corporation. Finally, the act introduces stringent rules concerning the auditors'independence, including a cooling-off period and a blacklist of "forbidden" activities.
Ontwikkelingen omtrent corporate governance in België: volgt het reglementair kader het feitelijk duaal bestuursmodel?
Like in other European countries, Belgium has developed a set of corporate governance principles during the nineties. This article summarizes the different corporate governance codes and their most important governance rules. Further it sheds some light on the implementation of these rules by stock exchange listed companies. Early 2000 a government commission published a report to change the Belgian company law and to legally implement some corporate governance rules. This report resulted in a proposal for a new bill, introduced in Parliament in April 2001. The most important features, rules on a specific kind of two tier board structure, conflicts of interest and independence of statutory auditors will be briefly discussed. Published in: A shorter version of this article has been published in Ondernemingsrecht (NL), 2002-1, p. 14-20.
Geschillenregeling en vruchtgebruik
This paper focuses on problems that may occur when shareholders are confronted with a usufruct on shares in the dispute resolution procedure of the Company Code. Except for the specific claim for the transfer of the voting right (article 641 Company Code), the dispute resolution procedure does not provide rules regarding usufruct on shares. This situations gives rise to many questions, of which the most important is whether the usufructary can be considered a shareholder and thus be entitled to act as claimant or defendant in the dispute resolution procedure. Published in: T.R.V., 2001/6, 373.
Scale of Corporations, Industry- specifities and voting blocks: a private benefit approach
The major shareholdings directive (88/627/EEC) enables a detailed analysis of the stake and the identity of the largest shareholders of European stock listed corporations. However, in continental Europe only a limited number of studies provide an empirical analysis of the ownership and control of corporations. This study updates the data of the ECGN reports by analysing voting blocks of listed corporations in six European countries. Second, 1999 was the year Europe introduced the euro. The new database therefore allows to test on an European comparative level whether Demsetz and Lehn's theory (1985) that larger corporations have a more dispersed ownership structure stands up to scrutiny. Third, Bebchuk's rent-seeking theory (1999) of the evolution of ownership and control will be partly tested. The private benefits of control for a given corporation depends not only on the legal rules as proven by La Porta et al. (1997) but also on company-specific and industry-specific parameters. If the theory of industry-specific private benefits stands up to scrutiny, a one way analysis of variance indicates significant differences between the means of the voting block of the largest shareholder for industry grouped companies. The results only partially confirm the influence of industry-specific characteristics. In different countries, different industries are characterised by different shareholder concentration patterns.
De coöperatieve participatievennootschap (CPV)
In June 2001 the official Belgian Journal published a new law on employee participation. The newly introduced employee participation schemes differ from the existing benefit schemes as they require the participation of all employees of the firm. Different remuneration schemes are possible: direct financial benefit in the profits of the company or an employee stock ownership plan. In the latter system the employees have the right to contribute their shares in a corporation. The object of the present paper is to provide a general overview of a new type of corporation that can be used to manage the shares. The "coöperatieve participatievennootschap" stems from the "coöperatieve vennootschap". The founders decide on the limited or unlimited liability. This paper proves that the new type has some advantages, but in general it can be expected that due to the absence of a balanced legal framework employees will not be akin to found a "coöperatieve participatievennootschap". Published in: Financiële participatie door werknemers: de Wet van 22 mei 2001, Kluwer, 2001, 141-167.
De Richtlijn Elektronische Handel en financiële diensten: een brug te ver?
The adoption of the EU directive on Electronic Commerce has provoked a lot of questions and interrogations about its application in the financial sector. The object of the present paper is to provide a general overview of the possible consequences of applying the horizontal e-commerce directive to the different areas of financial services legislation, with specific attention to issues of Belgian law. After a general description of the main features of the e-commerce directive and its place amongst the arsenal of harmonization measures at EU level, a few critical remarks are made about the interaction between the general e-commerce directive and the specific directives in the fields of banking, investment services, and collective investment undertakings. The author concludes that the uncertainties raised by several basic questions relating to the interpretation of the e-commerce directive and its implications in the area of financial services are not akin to promote the climate of legal certainty which was the basic intention of the drafters of the ecommerce directive. Published in: Liber Amicorum Prof. Dr. Y. Merchiers, Die Keure, 2001, p. 601-624.
Some Recent Trends and Developments in Company Law
This paper summarises some of the findings of the research report that was presented to the December 2000 Stockholm conference. Four topics, on which further activities within the OECD can be recommended, deserve special attention: the functioning of the board of directors, the functioning of the general meeting, the issue of ownership and control, and finally the meaning of the legal capital. These topics are briefly developed, with a recommendation for future regulatory action.
Company Law in Europe and European Company Law
This paper addresses some of the issues underlying the harmonisation of company law in Europe, especially in its relationship with company law developments in the Member states. It highlights that until now company law has attempted to engage in substantive harmonisation, and less in solving cross-border issues involving company establishment. By doing so, it has led to a pattern of cross border establishment that, being essentially based on the formation of subsidiaries under more or less comparable legal systems, is less efficient than if the companies in Europe had been allowed to freely and efficiently establish themselves under the form of branches. It also allows to situate the substantive harmonisation activity as a form of restricting the competitive forces in the company lawfield. By stressing substantive harmonisation, regulatory arbitrage has been stifled leading to less flexibility without reducing the need for rules on the cross-border aspects of the company activity.Some recent developments are analysed, dealing with the SLIM report, the 14th predraft on the cross-border transfer of the seat, and the proposed rules on the European company statute. Published in: Company law in Europe and European Company Law, 1st European Jurists Forum, p. 85-163, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Nürnberg, 2001, ISBN 3-7890-7572-8.
La discrimination dans la vie des affaires: rapport belge
The object of this paper is to analyse which rules prohibit or otherwise restrict the possibility for discriminatory behaviour in business life.. After a sketch of the general rules which apply under constitutional law in the relation between public authorities and private individuals, this paper examines some of the main rules dealing with discrimination in business, notably in company law, financial market regulation and competition law. The final part raises the question whether general principles prohibiting discriminatory behaviour between private individuals may be found in Belgian law. We defend the point of view that this is not the case at present.
Current Company Law Reform Initiatives in the OECD Countries- Challenges and Opportunities
At the demand of the OECD, Eddy Wymeersch drafted this comparative overview on the basis of survey reports submitted by a large number of OECD Member States. The items analysed concern : the general meeting of shareholders, the board of directors and its structure, the use and usefulness of legal capital, structure of share ownership and disclosure. With respect to each of these items, the main features of the regulation in the different jurisdictions have been reviewed. On several topics, recent trends of changes in laws and regulations and in legal thinking have been outlined. This report is mainly addressed to the representatives of the OECD Member States and served as background paper for an OECD Conference, held in Stockholm, on December 8-9, 2000.
Rondgang langs enkele vennootschapsrechtelijke ontwikkelingen over de periode 1964-2000
The present paper gives an impressionist view of the evolution of Belgian company law over the period of existence of the law review in which the paper is planned to be published. It illustrates the increasingly rapid changes of the legislation. The first phase, up to the mid 80's being largely influenced by the EU harmonization directives, while the more recent years are more clearly determined by national and international market developments. These are increasingly shaping company law, in competition with the law of neighbouring states. Attention is drawn to the impact some important takeovers are having on thinking about company law, while recently the corporate governance debate - and draft legislation - is likely to affect the structure of company groups that previously dominated the Belgian scene.
Toepassingen van Corporate Governance-regelen in het Belgische Economisch recht
The purpose of this paper is double: on the one hand it draws attention to the numerous aspects of corporate life and structure that are involved in the corporate governance debate, while it identifies the use of corporate governance techniques - such as independent directors, board committees, etc. - in Belgian legislation dealing with specific issues of economic regulation. In a law of 1991 dealing with public interest enterprises, governance techniques have been used to isolate the enterprise from government intervention. In more recent legislation, governance techniques are used to organise the decision structure in the company that organises the power supply transmission lines as a crucial feature of the new competitive structure in the field of electricity supply. This company will be a listed company, with a significant holding owned by the power producers and distributors. Its decision structure should be isolated from the intervention of its shareholders: therefore the majority of the board have to be independent directors, appointed on the nomination of a corporate governance committee, that will also act in all cases of conflict of interest with the said shareholder. Corporate governance techniques can obviously be used for a wide variety of purposes. Published in: LIBER AMICORUM, Y. MERCHIERS, DIE KEURE, 2001, p. 683-702.
Het Wetboek van Vennootschappen: Grote schoonmaak en inhoudelijke aanpassingen in het Belgisch vennootschapsrecht
This paper (in Dutch) discusses the new "codification" of Belgian company law - in fact only a coordinated version of the former Companies Act and several other statutes relevant for companies which comes into force on February 6 2001. It gives an overview of the structure of the new "Company Code" and of the numerous, mainly very technical changes that were made to the former Companies Act. My overall assessment of the Code is positive, but practitioners should be aware that it harbours quite a few changes which could easily go unnoticed until they surface in a specific transaction..
Bescherming van de belegger bij belangenconflicten in multifunctionele financiële instellingen
This article investigates to which extent Belgian law protects the private investor in situations where the multifunctional financial institution is confronted with a conflict of interest. Both contract law and the relevant financial regulation are examined. As a conclusion, the author suggests that the present regulatory approach does not provide an effective, nor an efficient answer. As the essence of the problem is the absence of effective market forces controlling the arbitrage between conflicting interests within the financial institution, a solution should be designed to increase transparency, allowing effective competition to minimize problems.
Virtuele financiële dienstverlening (e-banking en e-trading). Een transactionele benadering
This paper examines to which extent Belgian law at present enables, from a transactional point of view, the conclusion of financial transactions by electronic means. Basically, financial services regulation is characterised by a large amount of formal requirements with respect to the formation of contracts, which cannot be fulfilled in an electronic environment. In legal terms, a distinction should be made between a formal requirement imposed for purposes of proof of a contractual relationship and requirements which bear an influence on the validity of contracts. Although recent laws in Belgium have allowed the substitution of traditional means of proof by electronic means, there is not, at present, any rule which allows the formation of (financial) contracts by electronic means in general. The Belgian law will have to be adapted on numerous points in the near future, due to the forthcoming implementation date of the European Directive on electronic commerce. The difficulties currently faced by financial institutions in offering virtual financial services are illustrated by different examples: consumer credit, mortgage credit, e-trading. Published in: Privaatrecht in de reële en de virtuele wereld, Post-Universitaire Cyclus Willy Delva, Kluwer, 2002, p. 285-321.
The Use of ICT in Company Law Matters
The use of ICT in company law deserves ample attention. Several states are planning regulation in this field. In some states remote registration of company charter and other disclosure documents will be made possible. Disclosure websites instead of the disclosure at the business registry should be considered. With respect to listed companies, filing and disclosure of financial documents has already been put in place in some states. More difficult are the issues raised by the use of ICT in the general meeting: in this field several issues are analysed: notices, questions, or motions by shareholders proxies, and so on. Remote voting is still the most difficult problem: apart from authentication of the shareholder company, pre-meeting voting can be solved. Distance voting during the meeting seems technically very hard to achieve. The long term effects of ICT can be seen as relating to agency issues, to the role of disclosure as a creditor protection device, effecting the role of the legal capital, and the definition of a shareholder in light of the very active trading on the stock exchanges. Published in: G. FERRARINI, K. HOPT, E. WYMEERSCH (Eds.), Capital markets in the age of the Euro, London, Kluwer Law Int. 2001, p. 469-502.
Bankieren via internet: het belang van de elektronische handtekening
The internet and the rising importance of electronic commerce create new challenges for financial institutions. Although financial institutions at present enable their clients to initiate several transactions via the internet, they do not yet conclude contracts on-line without prior establishment of a contractual relationship through classical means, i.e. a written contract. An important reason for this is the absence of a legal framework, which would give parties to the transaction absolute security as to acceptance of their electronic signature as a proof in court. Furthermore the question arises in what way financial institutions can meet their obligations arising from money laundering laws. This article aims at researching the impact of the currently debated Belgian bill on the recognition of electronic signatures on these issues. Published in: Tijdschrift voor Bank- en Financiewezen 2000, 630-639.
European Company Law: The SLIM-Initiative of the EU Commission
This paper reviews the main proposals made by a working party, set up within the framework of the SLIM (Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market) initiative of the European Commission, which aims at reducing administrative and regulatory burdens on industries through the simplification of European Community Legislation. The mission of the SLIM working party on company law was limited to the first and second company law directives. The conclusions of the working party are formulated as recommendations through the European Commission, and might possibly result in amendments to be proposed by the European Commission on the directives.
Financial Institutions as Members of Company Groups in the Law of the European Union
This paper analyses the legal status of financial institutions which form part of financial or mixed group in the law of the European Union. This analysis is made from a double angle. First the situation in group law is examined, as in many jurisdictions, financial institutions will be treated as normal components of group of companies. In addition to general group law, financial groups are however, subject to more stringent and more specific requirements, aimed not only at safeguarding the interests of their creditors, but also at protecting the financial system as a whole. This explains the elaborate rules at European level on consolidated supervision. This paper further investigates into the legal nature and legal effects of consolidated supervision of both financial groups and financial conglomerates. Published in: Festschrift Marcus Lutter, Bonn, 2000 and European Business Organization Review EBOR 2001, 2, 81-99.
De afwikkeling van interbancaire betalingen
This paper analyzes the legal problems concerning the settlement of interbank payments. After a description of the various mechanisms which at present are available to settle payments between financial institutions, the article focuses on the applicable law and on the liability of the intermediaries in case of default in the execution of the payment order. Furthermore, we analyze the issues surrounding the bankruptcy of a financial institution during the settlement of the payment order. The last chapter of the paper includes an analysis of the Belgian law of 28th april 1999, which implements the European directive on settlement finality in payment and securities stettlement systems.
Die Harmonisierung des Gesellschaftsrechts im Zeitalter von Internet
With the new millennium, the harmonization of company law in Europe enters into a new era. The harmonization efforts launched in the precedent decades have been brought to an end. An impressive body of legislation has been created, laying the foundations for European-wide developments of company law. More importantly, the harmonization thus far achieved has demonstrated that company law is an area of regulation where common notions and techniques may be developed.In this paper, we give some considerations about the future developments in European company law. Should new initiatives for harmonization be made, or is it sufficient to modernize the existent framework, as has recently been done in the framework of the SLIM-project. One should take account of the changing environment in which companies operate: glbalization and technological developments are likely to substantially modify different aspects of corporate life. To be published in: FESTSCHRIFT FÜR PROF. MARKUS LUTTER
Some aspects of Cross border co-operation between business enterprises
The present analysis deals with two types of cross border co-operations between business firms: on the one hand the bi-national horizontal groups (type Shell, Unilever). This form of co-operation allows firms to fully integrate without loosing their legal identity. Proposals are made to develop a "default scheme" which firms could adapt. The second subject deals with cross-border take-over: issues of conflicts of laws are numerous. The rule of the market where the target's shares are traded, is dominant, but incidentally account will have to be taken of the jurisdiction of the target company, if registered in another state. The 13th directive contains useful connecting factors. Published in: N. HORN (Ed.), Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions and the Law. Studies in Transnational Economic Law, vol. 15, 2001, p. 63-89, Kluwer Law Int.
The Equity Markets, Ownership Structures and Control: Towards an International Harmonisation?
This paper provides an overview of the evolution of the equity markets and ownership structures in the nineties. Data on the equity markets show that the primary distinction between market-oriented and network-oriented systems must be readjusted. In some network-oriented countries equity markets became broader and more valuable. It seems that firms in network-oriented countries are seeking external capital without opting into legal systems that are more protective of minorities. Existing ownership structures are relatively stable and adjusting slowly. The importance of the non-financial sector is diminishing in most European countries while foreign shareholders and institutional investors extend their stakes. These trends do not indicate that control in most European countries has shifted towards the markets: the non-financial sector still holds most of the large stakes and controls a significant number of small and large stock exchange listed companies in continental Europe. This new evidence has important consequences on the existing research on the influence of legal aspects of external finance. Not only the ownership concentration but also the nature of the shareholding concentration must be added in those models.
Unravelling the General Good Exception. The case of Financial Services
In this paper we try to analyze the scope and significance of the general good exception, which has been construed by the Court of Justice as a mitigation of the general prohibition of all restrictions, whether discriminatory or not, to free movement of services and freedom of establishment. After an overview of the case law of the Court ofJustice relating to these freedoms, we examine the conditions attached to the possibility for the member states to invoke the general good in order to maintain their national regulation restricting free movement.Notwithstanding the existence of EU directives in the area of financial services with a view to create an internal market, there still is a wide scope for applying the general good by the member states at the level of financial product regulation. In view of the difficulties and the uncertainties surrounding the general good clause, we finally look at possible alternatives which aim at reducing information costs and enhance transparency with respect to the practical application of the general good clause by the member states. Published in: M. ANDENAS, W.-H. ROTH (eds.), Services and Free Movement in EU Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 321-381.
Overzicht Rechtspraak Privaat Bankrecht
This paper contains a review of Belgian case law in the field of credit transactionsincluding leasing and factoring, documentary credit and bank guarantees. It also reviews the case law with respect to the use of cheques and of bills of exchange. All Belgian cases rendered in the period 1992-1998 are analysed, reviewed and commented. The paper is a part of a larger paper to be published with Maarten Dambre and Koen Troch, both of Ghent University, in Tijdschrift Privaatrecht België. Published in: Tijdschrift voor Privaatrecht (Belgium) p. 1779-2034, 4-1999
Les Défenses Anti-OPA après la treizième Directive. Commentaires sur l’article 8 de la future directive
In the forthcoming European directive on take-over bids, provisions restrict the action of the target board to defend itself against the take-overs, especially by forbidding any action or "completing any action" that is likely to jeopardise the takeover. This provision will have significant impact on actual practice in several member states, as it sometimes was usual to issue subscription rights to controlling shareholders or to authorise the board to place additional securities in case of "an imminent and grave danger". The limits of the prohibition of defensive techniques are analysed. However the directive does not prohibit defensive techniques, put into place before the take-overs is imminent, but not involving any board action. In a last section, the policy issues most underlying these rules are analysed, especially the contradiction between this prohibition of the so-called defensive action against the continuing validity of protective action. Also the differences with the U.S. attitude as to defences is mentioned. Published in: Mélanges en l'honneur de Jean Stoufflet, L.G.D.J., 2000.
Veränderungen im Gesellschaftsrecht: Ursachen und Entwicklungslinien
This paper attempts to situate some of the forces that are governing company law reform these last decades. Three main factors are identified: internationalisation and institutional competition, also between company regulations and company law systems; the effect of the securities markets; and ICT technology. In today's global economy, these changes are more and more determined by competitive pressures from other legal systems, creating an environment of competition between regulators, legal systems and companies themselves. Efficient company law systems are recognised as key elements in the build up of a healthy economic system. International institutions as the World Bank and the OECD are therefore showing interest in company law. Competition between economic systems therefore also leads to competition between company and securities laws. After the period of harmonisation in Europe, in the field of companies that are listed on the securities markets, developments are increasingly governed by market forces: the debate about the accounting rules, but also the spread of corporate governance standards, and the increasing use of one single model of the prospectus for the public issue of securities can be cited among the many examples. ICT has revolutionised securities trading. Now it poses new challenges to company law: it might have fargoing effects on the agency relation, the liability of the directors and on the position of the creditors. Published in: Zeitschrift für Unternehmens- und Gesellschaftsrecht (ZGR) 2001, p. 294-324.
Conduct of Business Rules and their Implementation in the EU Member States
The purpose of this paper is to analyse how the Member States have implemented and put into operation the principles of conduct of business for investment firms as set out in Article 11 ISD into their national legal systems. This should provide some insight into the degree of convergence brought about by Article 11, or, conversely, whether existing disparities between the Member States constitute a barrier to the integration of the markets for investment services in the European Union. After a few general observations on the genesis and legal character of Article 11 ISD, our attention will focus on the different aspects related to the implementation of the rules of conduct in national law, namely: the regulatory techniques used (self-regulation versus hard law or intermediate forms), the level of regulation (implementation of theminimum or additional standard setting), the legal nature and effects of the conduct of business rules in the Member States, the supervision and enforcement of the conduct of business rules, and, finally, the territorial scope of application of the rules and its supervision. A final section will briefly touch upon the prospects for further developments or harmonization of the conduct of business rules in view of recent developments in both the markets and in regulation.Published in:G. FERRARINI, K. HOPT, E. WYMEERSCH (EDS.), Capital markets in the age of the Euro, London, Kluwer Law Int. 2001, p. 65-99.
Het directiecomité naar huidig en toekomstig Belgisch recht
Analysis of the present and future governance model for Belgian public companies limited by shares (sociétés anonymes). The present board structure, based on a unitary board is increasingly superseded by a de facto dual board, where a committee effectively manages the company, while the board is involved in the supervision of management and the general strategies of the company. This discrepancy between the factual and the legal situation creates tensions and confusion. Therefore, a bill will be introduced in Parliament in 2001 whereby this structure will be effectively made available, but merely on an optional basis. After the adoption of that law, some Belgian companies will have shifted towards a model that comes closer to a two tier board, without adopting the full two tier system. Published in: Liber Amicorum H. Olivier, Die Keure, 2000, p. 671-683.
The Harmonisation of Securities Regulation in Europe in the New Trading Environment
The integration of the securities markets in Europe is gaining momentum: Euronext has been in operation for several months now, while after the iX failure new ways are being investigated to structure anew the securities trading business. In July 2000, a few days before the iX proposal was announced, this paper was presented at a Cambridge UK Conference. It attempts to identify the main lines of development which harmonisation has followed in Europe, reviewing the policies underlying the directives, the need for a European SEC and finally the conflict issues that are likely to pop up in any type of cross border integration of the market organisation. Although written with the iX model in mind, the issues that are analysed will have to be addressed in any market structure. The conflict rules contained in the 13th Directive are also analysed, as these probably will have to be adapted to an integrated cross border trading environment.
Harmonisation and Legal Transplantation of EU Banking Supervisory Rules to Transitional Economies. A Legal Approach
This paper examines how different CEECs (Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic) are adapting their banking systems to the acquis communautaire, the effects and possible limits of transplantation of the EU rules to economies in transition. The first part will outline the general principles of the relations between the EU and individual transitional countries, in order to find out to which extent the latter are bound to incorporate the acquis communautaire into their national legal systems.The second part examines the changing legal environment of banking in the selected CEECs and compares some of its features to the existing European and international supervisory standards.Part III will analyse the scope, effects and possible limits of transplantation of EUsupervisory standards to the CEECs. In particular, attention will be paid to the specific function of EU harmonization in a perspective of market integration, and the question whether these rules should be adapted to the specificities of the market environment in which they will have to operate.
De remuneratie van de raad van bestuur van de Bel-20 vennootschappen
This paper gives the first results on the relationship between board remuneration and performance measures in the most important Belgian stock exchange listed companies. On average the board of directors of the Bel-20 companies receives between 65 and 75 million BEF, much more than the directors of the other stock exchange listed companies. In 1994-1995 the boards of the other listed companies received on average 7 million BEF.The results suggest that there is a statistically and empirically significant connection between boardroom pay and sales. The other independent variables - capitalisation, shareholder value and profits - are statistically significant but possibly deteriorated by heteroscedasticity or are statistically insignificant.
Comment le droit pourrait aborder certains groupes de sociétés
Le droit des groupes de sociétés belge comme celui de la plupart des états voisins raisonne partir de l'indépendance de chacune des sociétés appartenant au groupe. On en a déduit que chaque société appartenant un groupe devrait ètre gérée dans son intérèt propre: l'intérèt social serait la mesure de toute décision. Cette présentation est toutefois trompeuse: il est de pratique et de jurisprudence constantes que dans les groupes de sociétés, les filiales peuvent tenir compte de l'intérèt du groupe, dans la mesure celui-ci comprend leur intérèt propre. Published in: Melanges offerts a Pierre Van Ommeslaghe, Bruylant, 2000, 703-72.
Corporate Governance en institutionele beleggers in België en West-Europa
"Continental institutional investors are voting with their feet." A study of the activism of Belgian institutional investors shows that anno 1993 they are not interested in influencing the policy of stock exchange listed companies. The attendancy rate at general meetings is on average 22%. New protective measures of minority shareholders do not change the policy of the Belgian institutional investors. Anecdotical evidence shows that the activism of the institutional investors in other continental European countries do not differ significantly from the Belgian situation.
Juridische problemen in het kader van de electronische handel
In onze hedendaagse informatiemaatschappij wint de elektronische handel steeds meer aan belang. Electronic commerce leidt tot de dematerialisering en de internationalisering van het handelsverkeer. Er wordt nagagaan in welke mate deze evolutie gevolgen heeft voor het tot stand komen en het bewijs van overeenkomsten en in welke mate de huidige wettelijke regeling aangepast is aan deze nieuwe wijze van handelen. Tot slot wordt aangegeven dat een verdere ontwikkeling van de elektronische handel onmogelijk is, voor zover er geen adequate Internet-betaalsystemen voor handen zijn. Daarbij wordt in het bijzonder onderzocht welke risico's aan een betaling via Internet verbonden zijn. Published in: T.B.H. 1999, pp. 664-676.
Het gerechtelijk akkoord en de schuldeisers
The Belgian Law of 17 June 1997 on Judicial Composition has thoroughlymodified the legal framework for the treatment and recovery of enterprises facing(financial) difficulties. In balancing creditor interests and the interests of theenterprise, the new legal framework seems to attach a growing importance to theneed to preserve economic substance of the enterprise.This paper examines the legal consequences of the new legal regime from the angleof mainly crditor protection. The analysis shows that in more than one respect theapparzently clear and unequivocal provisions of the law hide fundamentalinterpretation issues. The emerging case law on the new law reflects thesedifficulties. Published in: GANDAIUS ACTUALIA, VOL. IV, KLUWER, 1999
Juridische aspecten van ISABEL
Isabel is de innovatie in de bancaire wereld en laat ondernemingen toe op elektronische wijze te communiceren met banken en handelspartners. Deze bijdrage besteedt in de eerste plaats aandacht aan de problemen die rijzen naar aanleiding van de dematerialisering van het betaal- en berichtenverkeer (bewijs en identificatie). Daarbij wordt in het bijzonder stilgestaan bij de problematiek van de aansprakelijkheid van de werknemer in geval van misbruik van het systeem. Verder wordt onder meer gewezen op het frequent gebruik van exoneratieclausules en wordt onderzocht in welke mate deze rechtsgeldig zijn. Published in: Revue de la Banque / Bank en Financiewezen, 1999/7,pp. 405-411.
Overnamereglementering en de ontwikkelingen in de Belgische aandeelhoudersstructuur
The international research on corporate governance focuses i.a. on the influence of legal rules on the economic performance and organisation of the firm. This paper analyses the evolution of the ownership structure of Belgian stock exchange listed companies. The concentration of blockholders rises significantly during the period 1985-1989, the year of the introduction of the mandatory take over bid. By enlarging their stake, large shareholders didn't have to start a take over bid. They receive the controlpremium when selling the stake.
Internationaalprivaatrechtelijke problemen bij documentair krediet
The article focuses on the problems arising in connection with documentary credits in international private law. after a short description of the role of the parties involved, it describes the criteria which should be applied to determine the international jurisdiction and the applicable law. Due to its independant nature, conflicts concerning the different legal relations involved in a documentary credit are often brought before different judges. The assessment of the applicable law on the contrary will in most circumstances lead to the same result. Related problems, as problems concerning securities, seizure and bills of exchange are governed by specific laws. Published in: Revue de la Banque/Bank- en Financiewezen, 1999/5, pp.208-217.
Le débat relatif au ‘Corporate Governance’
En Belgique, comme dans la plupart des autres pays européens, le débat sur le "corporate governance" a attiré beaucoup d'attention. En fait, cet intérèt pour l'équilibre des rapports de force au sein des sociétés n'est pas récent. Le noeud du débat belge sur le "corporate governance" se situe essentiellement dans les matières qui touchent au contrôle des sociétès, essentiellement au sein les sociétés cotées en bourse. Un second ingrédient essentiel dans ce débat concerne la place plus importante occupée par les marchés de valeurs mobilières dans le fonctionnement des sociétés. Published in: RIVISTA DELLE SOCIETA, 1999, NO 2-3, p. 305-327
Le gouvernement d’entreprise: faits et perspectives
Certains voient le corporate governance comme étant un sujet limité, traitant essentiellement du fonctionnement du conseil d'administration, ou des organes dirigeants. Les relations avec les investisseurs, ou parfois avec les actionnaires en font encore partie. D'autres abordent le sujet sous un angle plus vaste: il s'agit de la totalité des relations au sein de l'entreprise, y compris les rapports avec les actionnaires, avec le personnel ou mème avec les autres "stakeholders" créanciers, fournisseurs, clients, consommateurs, l'état, voire mème avec la communauté locale ou l'intérèt général. Published in: ACTUALITES DU DROIT, 1999, NO 2, p. 167-194.
Shareholder Voting in Belgium
The shareholders' meeting is not any longer the supreme body in the Belgian company's organisation: this is the board of directors, to whom also the residual powers would belong. The shareholders' meeting is in charge of all matters relating to the agency relationship within the company and all matters relating to changes - even minor ones - in the company's articles of association.This paper provides a general overview of the Belgian law and practice ofshareholders' meetings. Published: Shareholder Voting Rights and Practices in Europe and the United States, Th. BAUMS
‘Centros’: vrijheid van vestiging zonder race to the bottom
This article deals with the implications of the Centros decision of the European Court of Justice for the "real seat" criterion in international company law and for regulatory competition between EU member states. It is argued that the decision, although formally only dealing with the right of free secondary establishment, clearly limits the full-fledged application of the real seat criterion in that member states may no longer refuse to recognize a company on the ground that its real seat is not situated in the country of incorporation.
The decision will be beneficial for the right of establishment, but is unlikely to greatly increase regulatory competition, since it hardly makes reincorporations within the EU any easier and in general only marginally improves the freedom of companies to choose the national laws applicable to them. Fears of massive evasion of national rules after Centros are therefore, and despite the tight limits which the court sets on antievasion measures, exaggerated, especially since regulatory competition in the EU would, for several reasons discussed in the text, not lead to a "race to the bottom". Published in: ONDERNEMINGSRECHT, 1999/12, p. 318-324.
Company Law in the 21st Century
It seems likely that company law will continue to develop at a high speed in the next century, as one could witness in this closing century. The changes that have been introduced these last thirty years are probably more substantial than those that occurred during the first seventy years: the pace of reform is increasing, mainly due to the influence of the financial markets, but also to the greater interdependency of our different company law systems.In this paper, four topics will be dealt with: (1) Harmonisation and deregulation in the EU; (2) The Centros case, and its consequences; (3) The effects of the securities markets on the development of company law; (4) The consequences of electronic data exchange on the functioning of business enterprises in general, and company life in particular. Published in: International and Comparative Corporate Law Journal, 1999,volume 1, n° 3, 231-233 and 331-344.
Centros: A landmark decision in European Company Law
The 'Centros' judgment of the European Court of Justice is provoking great waves of unrest on the continent: interpretations vary from a breakthrough of the incorporation doctrine, the opponent philosophy, the seat doctrine having been thrown overboard, while the introduction of the Delaware rule in Europe would entail the much dreaded "race to the bottom". The Centros case will stir legal debate in several directions.After an analysis of the Centros-judgment, this paper looks into the possible implications of the ruling on the 'seat doctrine', the transborder transfer of the company seat and the prospects for harmonisation and regulatory competition in company law. Published in: Th. BAUMS, K.J. HOPT
Het SLIM IV Project van de Europese Commissie. Harmonisatie door Deregulering van het Europees Vennootschappenrecht
The SLIM ("Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market") exercise was launched by the Commission in everal areas of legislation, in which simplification could lead to further harmonisation. This text gives an overview of the proposals for simplification made by the Company Law SLIM Working Group with respect to the First and the Second Company Law Directives.As regards the First Company Law Directive the SLIM proposals focus on electronic filing and publication procedures and on line accessibility of company data throughout the European Union.With respect to the Second Company Law Directive, the Working Group made proposals concerning contributions in kind, compulsary withdrawal of shares, acquisition of own shares, financial assistance and pre-emptive rights.
The Investment Services Directive and its Implementation in the EU Member States
With the entry into force of the Investment Services Directive (ISD) on January 1st 1996, a major move has been made towards the integration of capital markets, by ensuring the cross-border mobility of the intermediaries on the market. This paper examines to which extent the ISD has actually contributed to realising a single European capital market, and how the member states have in general implemented the directive.Attention is also paid to future developments in the field of capital market regulation and market developments (inter alia the advent of European Monetary Union, the alliance movement between stock-exchanges and regulated markets, and the demutualisation of the stock exchanges.Finally we examine whether the mutations brought about by EMU and technological developments in financial markets should lead to further modifications to be made to the European Directives in the field of capital markets.