One of the actions in the Government's package of Measures to Enhance Ireland’s Corporate, Economic and Regulatory Framework, published in November 2017, is the establishment of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as a stand-alone agency.
The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 to establish the ODCE as a stand-alone agency was published on 4 December 2018. The General Scheme is currently subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
In terms of the statutory powers of the Agency, the Companies Act 2014 provides substantial and wide-ranging powers for the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 provides that the current range of powers that the ODCE has will be carried over to the new Authority, with some new investigative tools added. These include:
- Enhanced search and entry powers to meet the changes arising from technological advances and to allow the Authority to get a search warrant that enables it to search for electronic records that a company may hold on a server that is remote from the company or to be able to use its own equipment (Head 46);
- A provision on the admissibility of written statements (Head 45);
- Power for the Authority to request that a person acting as a liquidator provide evidence to the Authority that he or she is qualified to act as a liquidator in accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2014 (Head 41);
- New grounds to apply to the Courts for an Order to restrict a person from acting as a director in winding-up situations (Head 38). This is intended to address the situation where a director does not conduct an orderly winding up of a company.
Alongside these provisions in the General Scheme, my Department is working with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to giving the new Authority a power under the forthcoming Communications (Retention of Data) Bill to apply directly to the courts to retain specified telecommunication records for an investigation.