Year of publication
- English (28) (remove)
- The electronic exchange of information and respect for private life, banking secrecy and the free internal market (2010)
- The purpose of this essay is to assess the automatic exchange of information as described in EU Directive 2003/48 of 3 June 2003 on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments with regard to the fundamental right of the individual to a private life, to banking secrecy and the freedoms on which the European internal market is based. The assessment reveals the conflicts of interests and values involved in the holding by banks (particularly those offering private banking services) of increasingly extensive, detailed and intimate information about their clients and in the automatic processing of that information by ever more powerful and sophisticated systems. Banking secrecy plays an essential role in protecting clients against the dangers which the disclosure of such information without their permission might produce. Banking secrecy exists not only in Luxembourg but also in many other European countries, and in Germany and France in particular it is not very different from the system applying in Luxembourg. While the French and German tax authorities do have some investigative powers not enjoyed by their Luxembourg counterparts, those powers are strictly circumscribed and cannot rely on the electronic exchange of information set out in EU Directive 2003/48/EC. While banking secrecy is totally incompatible with the electronic exchange of information, the core question is whether the latter can be reconciled with the respect for private life. In a Europe that sets itself up as the cradle of human rights, the general and en-masse exchange of private information cannot provide adequate and sufficient guarantees that the information exchanged will not be misused. The amount of interference in private life is clearly out of proportion to the public interest involved and is contrary to sub-section 2, article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Since the automatic exchange of information at least potentially risks restricting the free flow of capital among Member States and discouraging the use of transborder banking services, its compliance with the fundamental principles of the internal market also needs to be closely examined. The restrictions imposed by such exchange very probably go beyond the limits within which the free movement of capital and services is possible. The European Court of Justice has found that there is no proportionality if the measures supposedly undertaken in the general interest are actually based on a general presumption of tax evasion or tax fraud. However, it would be true to say that the ECJ does not always examine the tax restrictions placed on the free movement of capital particularly thoroughly to ensure that they are necessary or proportionate. The economic effectiveness of the automatic exchange of information is far from being proved and involves significant cost to the banks providing the information and to the tax authorities using it. To date the system does not appear to have produced any significant new tax revenue nor does it prevent the continuing outflow of capital from Europe. Yet withholding at source, which respects individual and economic freedoms, does generate tax revenue that is cost-free to the State. Exchange of information on request in justified cases using the OECD Tax Convention on Income and Capital model does also fight tax fraud while at the same time providing citizens with the guarantees required to ensure their private lives are respected. A combination of these two systems - withholding at source and exchange of information on request in justified cases - would create the proper balance between the public and private interest that the automatic exchange of information cannot provide.
- Taking shareholder protection seriously? : Corporate governance in the United States and Germany (2003)
- The attitude expressed by Carl Fuerstenberg, a leading German banker of his time, succinctly embodies one of the principal issues facing the large enterprise – the divergence of interest between the management of the firm and outside equity shareholders. Why do, or should, investors put some of their savings in the hands of others, to expend as they see fit, with no commitment to repayment or a return? The answers are far from simple, and involve a complex interaction among a number of legal rules, economic institutions and market forces. Yet crafting a viable response is essential to the functioning of a modern economy based upon technology with scale economies whose attainment is dependent on the creation of large firms.
- European company law beyond the 2003 action plan (2007)
- This paper will sketch out some of the developments in European company law as seen from the current moment, which might be referred to as post- 2003 Action Plan, and from my purely personal viewpoint. I will thus restrict myself to presenting the current and expected legislative projects of the EU, with particular focus on the plans and activities of the Commission, and for the moment bracket out both a number of important and interesting decisions of the European Court of Justice and the debates among European legal scholars.
- The European Model Company Law Act project (2008)
- On 27 and 28 September 2007, a commission formed on the initiative of the authors held its first meeting in Aarhus, Denmark to deliberate on its goal of drafting a "European Model Company Law Act" (EMCLA). This project, outlined in the following pages, aims neither to force a mandatory harmonization of national company law nor to create a further, European corporate form. The goal is rather to draft model rules for a corporation that national legislatures would be free to adopt in whole or in part. Thus, the project is thought as an alternative and supplement to the existing EU instruments for the convergence of company law. The present EU instruments, their prerequisites and limits will be discussed in more detail in Part II, below. Part III will examine the US experience with such "model acts" in the area of company law. Part IV will then conclude by discussing several topics concerning the content of an EMCLA, introducing the members of the EMCLA Working Group, and explaining the Group's preliminary working plan.
- Shareholder voting in Germany (1999)
- Shareholder voting is back on the agenda of public debate for several reasons. One is the investors’ internationalization of capital investments and the raising of funds globally by companies. It can be predicted that considering the growing together of capital markets the trend to international investments will increase not least because the introduction of the Euro will create a uniform European stock market. This leads to the question how the law deals with this development and its problems. The EU Commission has commissioned a comparative study dealing, inter alia, with shareholders’ representation at general meetings in the EU member states.1 The aim is to simplify the operating regulations for public limited companies in the EU. Furthermore, the internationalization of shareholdings leads the investors to ask how their interests are protected abroad. Are the mechanisms of shareholder protection sufficient for foreign investors? In particular the formation of transnational companies like Daimler-Chrysler will change corporate governance systems. It remains to be seen whether and how foreign institutional investors will use measures of - in this case - German corporate law to control the management. From a microeconomic point of view the question is what specific features of a given corporate governance system might contribute to better performance of firms. The following remarks will however, be confined to one specific aspect of corporate governance only, the exercise of shareholders’ voting rights at the general meeting.
- The German banking system : system of the future? (1993)
- In early 1991 the United States Treasury Department of the Bush Administration recommended in ib proposal for Modemizing The FinancialSystem l that, in addition to other remarkable breaks with the traditional United States financial Services framework, the current bank holding Company structure be replaced with a new financial Services holding Company that would reward banks with the ability to engage in a broad new range of financial activities through separate afbliates, including full-service securities, insurance, and mutual fund activities. The Treaaury Department pointed out that commercial banking and investment banking are complementary Services and that the Glass-Steagall Separation was unnecessary. The Treasury Department gave many reasons for the need for financial modernization and why such a modemized System would work better. As an example that demonstrates the advantages of the System proposed by the Treasury Department, the proposal pointed to the German banks and called the German model of a universal banking System the most liberal banking System in the world. -What makes the German universal banking System so unique and desirable? The following outline of the history and the current structure of the Getman banking System is intended to give readers a background tc determine whether the German banking System could be a model for the System of the future.
- Universal banks and investment companies in Germany (1995)
- Universal banking means that banks are permitted to offer all of the various kinds of financial services. This includes classical banking activities like the credit and deposit business, as well as investment services, placement and brokerage of securities, and even insurance activities, trading in real estate and others. German universal banks also hold stock in nonfinancial firms and offer to vote their clients' shares in other firms. This paper deals with universal banks and their role in the investment business, more specifically, their links with investment companies and their various roles as shareholders and providers of financial services to such companies. Banks and investment companies have, as financial intermediaries, one trait in common: they both transform capital of investors (depositors and shareholders of investment funds, respectively) into funds (loans and equity or debt securities, respectively) that are channeled to other firms. So why should a regulation forbid to combine these transformation tasks in one institution or group, and why should the law not allow banks to establish investment companies and provide all kinds of financial services to them in addition to their banking services? German banking and investment company law have answered these questions in the affirmative. This paper argues that the existing regulation is not a sound and recommendable one. The paper is organized as follows: Sections II - V identify four areas where the combination of banking and investment might either harm the shareholders of the investment funds and/or negatively affect other constituencies such as the shareholders of the banking institution. These sections will at the same time explore whether there are institutional or regulatory provisions in place or market forces at work that adequately protect investors and the other constituencies in question. Concluding remarks follow (VI.).