20 Aib 2021, 11.30

The Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment today calls on the Government to give the proposed Corporate Enforcement Authority the structures, power and resources to tackle ‘white collar crime’.

In its report launched today, Pre-legislative Scrutiny of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018, the Committee makes seven recommendations that it believes will strengthen the proposals – and urges Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD, to proceed quickly with the finalisation of the Bill.

Committee Chair Maurice Quinlivan TD said: “Corruption and so-called ‘white-collar crime’ – and the perception that they are not adequately detected and punished – damage our economy and threaten our international reputation as a reliable place to do business in. They also breed cynicism in our society on the basis that certain crimes are regarded as being treated leniently.

“It is important that consumers, householders or businesses can all go about our business confident that white collar crime is treated with the seriousness that it deserves. Our approach to such crime must be evident in the structures that we put in place to deter it and in the resources that we apply to dealing firmly with such crime where it occurs.’

The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 brought forward by the Minister proposes to establish an autonomous Corporate Enforcement Authority to strengthen oversight relating to the conduct of business and corporate behaviour under the Companies Act 2014.  The Bill was originally published in December 2018 but the pre-legislative scrutiny was not completed when the 32nd Dáil was dissolved. The Bill was subsequently referred to the new Committee last year and the PLS process was completed as a priority.

Deputy Quinlivan said: “The Committee welcomes the proposals to give the new Authority the structures and powers that it needs to meet the challenges it faces in its investigation and prosecution of alleged breaches of company law. At the same time, the Committee stresses the vital need for sufficient resources – financial and otherwise – to be made available to the Authority if it is to meet these challenges.”

In its report, the Committee:

  • Recommends that legislation surrounding the searching of electronic devices be clarified;
  • Recognises the benefit of overarching ‘police powers’ legislation rather than piecemeal powers and calls for such a Bill to be prioritised in order that the Corporate Enforcement Authority has the necessary powers to meet the objectives set for the Authority;
  • Recommends that non-Garda staff of the Corporate Enforcement Authority be able to attend interviews alongside members of An Garda Síochána;
  • Supports the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement’s requests for the extension to the period in which applications by the ODCE/CEA must be brought before the Courts, and the extension of certain reporting requirements to examiners;
  • Recommends that the level of resourcing required be kept under constant review, with the possibility to increase staffing and other resources where required.
  • Recommends that the minimum number of members of the Authority be increased to 2.
  • Recommends that, in order to future proof the Authority, the maximum number of members be increased, possibly to 5.

Deputy Quinlivan said: “The Committee is making these recommendations that it believes will strengthen the Bill and ensure that the Authority is fully equipped to discharge its functions. I hope that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment will proceed quickly with the finalisation of the Bill, and the Committee looks forward to considering it further when it is examined at Committee Stage.”

The report Pre-legislative Scrutiny of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 is available on the Oireachtas website.

The Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment has 14 Members, nine from the Dáil and five from the Seanad.

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Committee membership

Teachtaí

Fianna Fáil

Solidarity - People Before Profit

Fianna Fáil

Maurice Quinlivan - Cathaoirleach

Sinn Féin

Independent

Fine Gael

Seanadóirí

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil

Green Party

Sinn Féin

Labour Party