Criminal liability of companies
In Austria, corporate criminal law is primarily governed by the Corporate Criminal Liability Act (VbVG). This law stipulates that not only natural persons, but also associations – i.e. in particular companies and legal entities under public law – can be prosecuted under certain conditions.
In order for an association to be liable to prosecution, a criminal offence must have been committed in favour of the association or the offence must have violated obligations that apply to the association. In addition, a decision-maker (such as a managing director, board member or supervisory board member) or employee must have committed the offence. In the case of offences committed by employees, the offence must also have been made possible or significantly facilitated by the fact that decision-makers failed to exercise the due and reasonable care required by the circumstances, in particular by failing to take essential technical, organisational or personnel measures to prevent such offences.
Avoiding risks and responding to suspected cases
The VbVG provides for high corporate fines of up to EUR 5.4 million. Moreover, international efforts to prosecute companies under criminal law are increasing. The importance of preventive criminal law advice and Criminal Compliance is therefore constantly growing. When defending companies in the areas of Commercial Criminal Law, Corruption Criminal Law and Medical Criminal Law, we pursue a strategic approach in which we always take into account the special features of the Corporate Criminal Liability Act (VbVG). For example, the VbVG rewards specific compliance measures and allows the public prosecutor’s office to decide at its discretion whether to (further) prosecute a company or to withdraw from the prosecution. The aim of our defense strategy in corporate criminal law is to avoid a public trial by proactively shaping the investigation proceedings and taking individual precautions.
Dr. Elias Schönborn has many years of experience in Criminal Defense in corporate criminal law and provides precise answers to the questions of how companies can avoid criminal law risks and react correctly to suspected cases in his practical handbook Criminal Compliance (2023). He has experience in the representation and defense of ATX companies, start-ups, medium-sized companies, industrial and technology companies, law firms, non-profit associations, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers and pharmacies.