New milestone law will see CEA crack down on larger scale and more complex breaches of company law
Minister of State with responsibility for Company Law, Robert Troy TD, welcomed the passing of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 through all legislative stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday the 15th December. The Bill will now be sent to the President for his signature and enactment into law.
The landmark Bill will transform the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into a statutory and independent agency entitled the Corporate Enforcement Authority with additional resources to investigate and prosecute white collar crime.
Details of Bill
The Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 establishes the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as a standalone statutory body with a commission structure, to be called the Corporate Enforcement Authority (CEA). It has been drafted on the basis of a General Scheme approved by Government in December 2018.
The Bill invests the CEA with the same functions and powers that the Director of Corporate Enforcement has with some modifications to reflect the new commission structure. These include encouraging compliance with the Companies Act 2014, investigations of suspected offences and non-compliance under that Act, prosecution of summary offences, referring indictable offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the exercise of certain supervisory functions with respect to liquidators and receivers.
The Bill provides for up to three full time commissioners, entitled Members, one of whom would be designated as Chairperson of the CEA. It is designed to give the new Authority the flexibility to structure itself in future to meet the differing and evolving demands of its remit, which includes investigation, prosecution, supervision, and advocacy, and along clear lines of responsibility.
The Bill gives the CEA the ability to appoint its own staff. As for the ODCE, there is provision in the Bill for secondment of Gardaí to the CEA. The Bill also includes a section on the accountability of the CEA to Oireachtas Committees.
The Government continues to work on new measures to tackle economic crime and corruption in particular through the cross-government Implementation Plan arising from the report of the Review of Structures and Strategies to Prevent, Investigate and Penalise Economic Crime and Corruption (Hamilton Review Group) led by the Minister for Justice. So new powers and other enhancements for the new Authority are matters that will continue to be actively considered.
In preparation for the establishment of the CEA, the budget of the ODCE has been increased by circa €1 million and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment approved sanction for 14 additional civil servants to be assigned to the Authority to enable it to undertake its new functions. This represents an increase of 20% in the level of funding to the ODCE and an increase of 35% in the number of civil service staff.
The importance of adequately resourcing the CEA is also set out in the Implementation Plan arising from the Hamilton Review Group. The Implementation Plan commited to identifying the relevant Garda resources to be seconded to ODCE/CEA.
The Government decision to publish the Bill supports additional Garda Síochána resources being made available to the CEA based on the CEA’s statutory functions, the CEA’s assessment of its resourcing needs and Government’s vision for the new Authority. The members of An Garda Síochána assigned to the CEA will increase from 7 to 16. The total increase in the overall headcount for the new CEA will be nearly 50% over previous levels.