The Higher Administrative Court recently requested that the Constitutional Court repeal Section 39(2) of the Trade Act, as it infringes fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Austrian legal practitioners are already eagerly awaiting this judgment, which is expected to be issued during 2018.
Parliament recently passed a new law on the registration of beneficial owners of Austrian legal entities. After obtaining the necessary approval of the Austrian federal states, the law is expected to enter into force on January 15 2018. In disclosing the relevant information on beneficial owners, the register aims to detect and prevent money laundering, especially with regard to complex corporate structures, holding companies or private foundations and trusts.
The typical way to invest in an Austrian company is by way of a capital increase. However, there are formalities with respect to limited liability companies (LLCs) – the most popular legal form in Austria – that sometimes make investing in LLCs unattractive or burdensome. To eliminate the concerns associated with these transactions, Austrian law provides a suitable, but widely unknown, alternative investment instrument: participation rights.
The Austrian Parliament recently passed an amendment to the law on limited liability companies (LLCs) aimed at simplifying the foundation of a special kind of LLC. The purpose of the changes – and the simplifications associated with them – have been hotly debated.
In a recent decision the Supreme Court held, in line with prior case law, that apparent authority requires the circumstances on which the assumption of authority is based to be induced by the principal, not by the representative. Although this is not new, the verdict has helped to clarify the boundaries of apparent authority. Certain key requirements must be met in order to establish apparent authority and thus allow the counterparty to rely on it.
Most start-ups are founded by first-time founders directly after graduation, with the founding team typically consisting of no more than two members. Because of this, founders are often unequipped to deal with the business challenges that they will face. Founders thus often make mistakes, especially at the start. Having an advisory board with qualified and trusted members can help a start-up to transform its potential into successes and create a foundation for sustainable development.
The rationale behind no-assignment clauses is that they allow the rights, claims and receivables to remain with the parties that have negotiated and executed the underlying agreement, rather than allowing a counterparty to sell or otherwise transfer its claims to an unrelated party. In order to be effective, a no-assignment clause must have been expressly negotiated and agreed and, with due consideration of all circumstances, must not grossly disadvantage the creditor.
While there is substantial uncertainty surrounding the consequences of Brexit, it can be assumed that it will have far-reaching consequences for limited companies registered on the Austrian Commercial Register. In particular, the freedom of establishment principle will no longer apply to relationships between Austria and the United Kingdom, which will have a significant effect on existing limited companies in Austria.
The legislature recently responded to criticism regarding the 2014 amendment to the Civil Code by considering the special purpose of shareholder agreements and their qualification as undisclosed partnerships. The latest version of the Civil Code now includes an exemption for undisclosed partnerships. All shareholder agreements may once again contain a waiver of ordinary termination rights in line with common practice and the typical goals of these agreements.
Modelled on the German Stock Corporation Act, a 2015 reform of the Austrian Criminal Code introduced a business judgement rule into the Austrian Stock Corporation Act and the Limited Liability Companies Act. The rule applies to management and supervisory board members and will change boards' decision-making processes – in particular, for complex, risky, far-reaching, resource-consuming and strategically important matters.
A recent amendment to the Civil Code will have a dramatic effect on shareholder agreements, as shareholders of a company established for an indefinite term can no longer waive ordinary termination rights. As any party to a civil law partnership can now terminate the partnership, parties should either conclude a termination waiver for a fixed period or conclude the agreement for a fixed period (with renewal options).