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The Impact of EU Company Law. Professor Mads Andenas. EU law and company law. Company law remains highly harmonised national law , with exceptions : European corporate forms such as EEIGs , Ses The directives and their impact

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The Impact of EU Company Law

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The Impact of EU Company Law

Professor Mads Andenas

EU law and company law

  • Company lawremainshighlyharmonisednationallaw, withexceptions: European corporate forms such as EEIGs, Ses

  • The directives and theirimpact

  • The impactoffreemovement (’fundamental freedoms’) and othertreaty rights, withproportonalityreviewofrestrictions

  • The impactof EU lawprinciples and human rights (’fundamental rights’)

The EEC as a market where companies and investment are the driving forces

  • Walter Hallstein’s vision

  • Free movement rights to non physical legal persons (companies)

  • The backlashes of the 1960s, re-introduction of capital restrictions

  • The other way around: investments and company law were to follow after free movement of goods and persons, establishment and services


Is company law and financial market regulation inherently protectionist?

  • Some traditional features of national company law:

    • Nationality requirements for directors

    • Limitations on foreign ownership

  • Replicated in financial market regulation where ‘prudential’ concerns put to protectionist use, see Belgian, Italian and Iberian cases in the last ten years. Compare with energy and telecoms sector cases.


Free movement and the law of the Internal Market

  • Free movement, restrictions and derogations subject to proportionality


Survival of open and direct discrimination

  • Limitations of free movement of companies and financial institutions in the 1990s as evidenced by Centros line of cases in the ECJ after Commission initiatives had been effectively stopped, French restrictions on pension and life assurance institution investment to French securities

  • It goes on, post Centros cases, practical obstacles to financial institutions wishing to form SEs (Nordea).


Winter Report (2002)

  • How company law statute, shareholder agreements and ownership create restrictions to free movement

  • The invention of the brake through rule

  • The resistance


Role of national law makers and regulators

  • The Take Over Directive as a case: the role of the UK and Sweden

  • One share – one vote

  • Draft directive on free movement of companies

  • SE Statute

    The DTIs and the Ministries of Finance

    The role of national parliaments


Role of EU institutions

Commission and Council, ECB

The role of the European parliament

Lamfalussy bodies, CESR. Notifications under the UCITS directive.

Illustrates fundamental problem of retaining nationally based regulation


Role of doctrine

German response to Daily Mail

The glosses on Centros

H Halbhuber, ‘National Doctrinal Structures and European Company Law’, (2001) 38 CMLR 1385

Report of the Reflection Group on the Future of European Company Law 2011


Impact of free movement: Caixa Bank an illustration

Case C-442/02 Caixa Bank France v Ministre de l’Economie, des Finances et de l’Industrie [2004] ECR I-8961

The French ban on interest on current accounts and subsidiaries of Spanish banks (branches may not have been covered by ban)

Professor Mads Andenas MA DPhil (Oxford), PhD (Cambridge)

  • 14 Where credit institutions which are subsidiaries of foreign companies seek to enter the market of a Member State, competing by means of the rate of remuneration paid on sight accounts constitutes one of the most effective methods to that end. Access to the market by those establishments is thus made more difficult by such a prohibition.

Free movement of companies in the ECJ

  • Daily Mail [1988] ECR 5483

  • Centros Ltd v. Erhvervs- og Selskabsstyrelsen [1999] ECR I-1459.

  • Überseering [2002] ECR I-9919.

  • Inspire Art [2005]ECR I. 1095

  • Sevic Systems AG [2005] ECR I-10805

  • Cartesio [2008] ECR I-9641. 

Direct discrimination

Should the freedoms have any bite

  • Centros Ltd v. Erhvervs- og Selskabsstyrelsen [1999] ECR I-1459.

  • Überseering [2002] ECR I-9919.

  • Inspire Art [2005]ECR I. 1095

  • Sevic Systems AG [2005] ECR I-10805

Exit restrictions

  • Daily Mail [1988] ECR 5483.

  • Cartesio [2008] ECR I-9641.

  • Reasoned opinion, a final warning, by the EFTA Surveillance Authority March 2011: Norway is in breach of the EEA Agreement by imposing an immediate tax on companies, or the shareholders of companies, that transfer their seat to another EEA State.

Golden Shares Cases

See for instance: Commission v Italian Republic [2005] ECR suspension of the voting rights attached to shareholdings exceeding 2% of the capital of companies in the electricity and gas sectors.

Privatisation process: what control can the state keep?

Does not matter whether restrictions are in public law or private law company instruments

The use of EU sources in resolving issues of pure internal, domestic law

  • Søksmålsfristen for å få kjent ugyldig et aksjeselskaps beslutning om fisjon også gjelder for søksmål om gyldigheten av beslutning om kapitalforhøyelse, Høyesteretts kjennelse, 10.02.2011, HR-2011-00313-A, (sak nr. 2010/1564), Rt 2011 p 18.

  • Saken gjaldt krav om sikkerhet for fordring mot overdragende selskap i fisjon, Høyesteretts kjennelse 14.122010, HR-2010-2138-A, Rt.2010 p 1532.

Useofimplementation in othermemberstates, HR-2002-772-a - Rt-2003-566

  • (26) Internasjonale rettskilder taler til fordel for at det må kreves mer enn den blotte henvisning til at selskapet er under stiftelse. Etter EFs første selskapsdirektiv - rådsdirektiv68/151/EØF av 9. mars 1968 - vil den som handler i det uregistrerte selskapets navn, hefte « med mindre annet er avtalt », og siktemålet med direktivet er å verne tredjemanns interesser. Det må også sees hen til at aksjeloven av 1976 var et resultat av nordisk samarbeid. Etter § 12 i den danske aksjelov skal det alltid, ved et uregistrert selskaps navn, tilføyes ordene « under stiftelse ». Dette vil ikke kunne oppfattet som en avtale om fravik fra hovedregelen om personlig ansvar. Men for det tilfellet at passusen « under stiftelse » ansees tilstrekkelig, gjøres det subsidiært gjeldende at ansvarsfraskrivelsen ikke kan få virkning i et tilfelle der selskapet aldri blir registrert.

Consequences for companylawyers

  • The need to master EU law to service clients

  • The threat of EU law: prejudice and fear

  • Recent examples: SE, ’not practical’ (Allianz, BP, in Norway, listed companies, Nordea’s attempt)

  • Reduce uncertainty

  • Use in take overs

  • In dialogue with authorities

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