The Government’s current programme to combat “white collar crime” is set out in the package of “Measures to enhance Ireland’s corporate, economic and regulatory framework”, which was published on 2 November 2017. That package is designed to ensure that Ireland’s reputation as a country with a top tier business environment is underpinned by a robust framework to combat corporate, economic and regulatory offences.
My Department has lead responsibility for delivery of 4 of the measures, all of which include the preparation of new legislation.
One of the key measures in the Government’s programme is the establishment of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as an agency that is better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. Giving effect to this decision requires new primary legislation to amend the Companies Act 2014. Accordingly, a General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill was published on 4 December 2018. That Scheme has been submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation for its consideration for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny. Subject to the outcome of the Joint Committee’s Pre-Legislative Scrutiny, the General Scheme is to be drafted as a priority, with a view to publication this year.
Another measure in the Government’s programme to tackle “white collar crime” is to examine the Company Law Review Group’s Report on Corporate Governance and to bring forward proposals, including for legislative change. My Department reviewed the CLRG’s recommendations last year and, as a result, proposals for legislative change are included in Part 4 of the General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill. These are intended to clarify certain corporate governance and other issues affecting the administration of company meetings.
The third measure assigned to the Department is the transposition of the Shareholders Rights Directive (Directive 2017/828). This Directive establishes specific requirements to encourage long term shareholder engagement and increase corporate transparency. Draft Regulations to give effect to this commitment were submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel last November and my Department is engaged with that Office on the drafting and settlement of those Regulations.
Finally, the package of measures includes a commitment to enact the Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill 2017. Again, my Department worked with the Parliamentary Counsel on the preparation of that Bill and the drafting of amendments to enhance the oversight and supervisory powers of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority. The Bill was enacted as the Companies (Statutory Audits) Act 2018 in July 2018 and virtually all sections were commenced in September 2018.