Business Crimes and Anti-Corruption
Administrative, Tax and Regulatory
Bar Admission: Istanbul Bar Association
Beril Yayla Sapan joined the firm in 2008 and is now a managing associate. Her practice focuses on dispute resolution, employment, business crime and anti-corruption.
Beril has been involved in several high profile commercial conflicts and debt collection procedures and successfully represents clients before the various courts in this field.
She is experienced in areas where commercial and criminal laws overlap and has advised several multinational companies on white collar crime, compliance and legal audits.
Her practice also includes labour law and she has advised on employment contracts and policies, restrictive covenants, collective bargaining agreements, employee related data protection, business immigration, terminations, collective redundancies and settlement. She also represents clients in litigation relating to termination, employment related debts, mobbing and discrimination claims.
Languages: English, Turkish
The Law on the Amendment of Some Laws to Improve the Investment Environment introduces new provisions regarding the issuance of cheques and bounced cheques. The omnibus act amends the Commercial Code and introduces a serial number issued by the bank and a two-dimensional barcode to the mandatory elements on cheques. Further, banks now have extended obligations regarding the opening of cheque accounts.
The Constitutional Court recently found that the requirement for employers to pay interest at a rate of 5% for each day that a journalist's overtime payments remain outstanding conflicts with the Constitution. The court ruled that this requirement places an excessive burden on employers and may result in journalists' unjustified enrichment. Therefore, the court repealed the provision on the grounds that it breached the principles of proportionality and equality.
The Supreme Court General Assembly on the Unification of Judgments recently concluded that penalty clauses agreed for the unjust termination of a fixed-term employment contract before its end date are valid and enforceable even if the contract is deemed to be of an indefinite nature due to a lack of objective conditions required by law to conclude fixed-term contracts.
Applying for mediation was recently made a prerequisite when filing a lawsuit concerning monetary claims by employees or employers arising out of employment contracts, collective labour agreements or reinstatement claims. Mandatory mediation was introduced to accelerate legal proceedings and lower the costs in employment disputes.
The Supreme Court recently found that the failure of employees to use appropriate language in their written workplace correspondence with superiors or colleagues constitutes a valid reason for termination. The court held that although the actions of the employee in question had not been serious enough to constitute just cause for termination and deprive him of his termination benefits, the employer could not be expected to continue the employment relationship.
Minimum wage, severance payments and administrative fines prescribed by the Labour Act are revised at the beginning of each calendar year. The minimum wage rate was recently increased to TL2,558.40 (gross) and the maximum severance payment was increased to TL6,017.60 (gross). In addition, the rate of administrative fines was increased by 23.73% compared with 2018.
The recently published Presidential Executive Decree 85 amended Decree 32 on the Protection of the Turkish Currency. In the field of employment law, it is unclear whether foreign nationals fall within the scope of the decree and how their salaries will be paid going forward. Since the decree uses the term 'Turkish residents', the general understanding is that it also applies to foreign employees, as they must have a residential address in Turkey in order to have a work permit.
The Supreme Court recently issued a number of decisions setting out how to calculate overtime pay and how employees can prove any overtime owed when required. Among other things, the decisions state that signed payslips can be used as material evidence. Further, where an employee has not signed a payslip and overtime payments have been made via bank transfer, the employee must prove that they worked the disputed overtime with documentary evidence.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning an employee's dismissal for borrowing money from their employer's customer. The Supreme Court reversed the first-instance labour court decision and ruled that the termination was lawful based on the fact that the employee had acted against the rule of integrity and honesty and damaged the employer's reputation.
The Labour Courts Act has introduced a number of changes and amended the appeal procedure for labour disputes. The legislature hopes to shorten the duration of actions which, by their nature, should be resolved as quickly as possible. Although it is still questionable whether these amendments will produce the anticipated returns in terms of reaching the desired duration for trial processes, they mark an important attempt to limit the two-phase appeal stage for certain cases.
The Amendment Act of August 25 2016 introduced the automatic enrolment of employees in private pension plans. As a result, employees under the age of 45 must be enrolled in a private pension plan as part of a pension agreement between their employer and a pension company. As the majority of employees have withdrawn from the system, the Ministry of Finance recently prepared a draft omnibus law which introduced new provisions regarding automatic enrolment in the private pension plan system.
Overtime in Turkey is regulated by the Labour Act and the Regulation on Overtime. Following criticism from legal scholars, the Regulation on Overtime was recently amended. The amendment has clarified that an employee's written consent for overtime can be obtained through an employment contract or during the employment relationship if needed. Therefore, obtaining employee consent at the beginning of each year is no longer required.
The Labour Courts Act, which was recently published in the Official Gazette, aims to ease the judiciary's workload and accelerate the judicial process in employment cases. The act has introduced a number of changes, the most important of which include mandatory mediation for employers and employees before initiating lawsuits, an amended procedure for reinstatement cases and a reduced statute of limitations of five years for several types of compensation.
The Supreme Court recently rendered an important decision concerning the protection of employees' privacy rights. The court reversed a first-instance labour court decision and ruled that the dismissal of an employee was unlawful on the grounds that the employer had used the employee's WhatsApp conversations (obtained in an impermissible way) as evidence, thus violating the employee's right to privacy.
The right of employees to annual paid leave is regulated by Articles 53 to 60 of the Labour Act and the Regulation on Annual Paid Leave. In principle, employees are expected to take their annual leave en bloc. Recent amendments to the act and the regulation maintain the right of employees to continuous rest, but provide flexibility to those who wish to divide their holidays into several parts in a given year.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning an employee's dismissal on the grounds of (among other things) recording a conversation with his supervisor without his consent. The court reversed a first-instance decision and ruled that the termination was lawful based on the fact that the employee had been handling personal business during working hours without authorisation and secretly recorded a conversation.
A long-awaited legal arrangement on employees' automatic enrolment in private pension plans by their employers was introduced into Turkish law by way of an amendment law published in 2016. The amendment law adds new provisions to the Private Pension Savings and Investment System Act 2001. Accordingly, employees under the age of 45 will be enrolled in a private pension plan with a pension agreement between the employer and a pension company.
The Ministry of Justice recently prepared a new draft Law on Labour Courts and shared it with the relevant public institutions and organisations for review. The draft law aims to ease the judiciary's workload and accelerate the judicial process in employment cases. The most important amendment stipulated in the draft law is the introduction of a mandatory mediation phase. If the draft law is adopted, it will be mandatory for employees to apply for mediation before initiating certain lawsuits.
The Law amending the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law and Other Laws recently came into force. The most significant amendments introduced to the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law are the abrogation of the postponement of bankruptcy procedure and the adoption of a more efficient and functional structure for the composition with creditors procedure, which is a court-approved agreement between debtors and creditors.
Parliament recently enacted an omnibus bill which – among other things – introduced new provisions regarding the postponement of bankruptcy. As a legal mechanism open to the misuse of debtors, the limitation of applications for the postponement of bankruptcy has been on Parliament's agenda for some time. The changes aim to establish stricter norms for such applications and make filing for bankruptcy a more attractive option than postponement.
The justification of court decisions is regarded as a key element of the right to a fair trial. In Turkey, this right is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Turkish Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure and Supreme Court precedents. However, in practice, judgments are sometimes made without providing any justification as to why the parties' claims and evidence were not taken into account.
Parties that failed to comply with an interim injunction or that violated an injunction previously faced one to six months' imprisonment. However, the Constitutional Court recently annulled this provision due to its lack of clear regulation and legal remedies. The changes will enter into force nine months after their publication in the Official Gazette and are final and binding on legislative, executive and judicial bodies, administrative authorities and real and legal entities.
Turkey has recently faced higher currency exchange rates, which has raised the question of whether this increase constitutes a change in circumstances that affects the fulfilment of contractual obligations. As there is no settled Supreme Court precedent regarding whether a fluctuation in currency exchange rates requires the adaptation of contracts, first-instance courts will need to examine the circumstances of each case.
Since 2012, individuals in Turkey have been able to make individual complaint applications to the Constitutional Court claiming that the state has violated their fundamental constitutional rights (or rights under the European Human Rights Convention) through its acts or omissions. One of the most common claims is that the state has violated an individual's right to a fair trial by failing to meet the reasonable time requirement and concluding criminal cases over long periods, in some cases more than 10 years.
Under Turkish law, there are two types of procedure in civil proceedings. Written procedure is the main and most common type, whereas the simple procedure, as the name suggests, is a simplified and expedited process. Following recent amendments, commercial cases worth less than TL100,000 are now subject to the simplified procedure in order to shorten the length of proceedings.
Preliminary injunctions in Turkey are regulated under the Code of Civil Procedure. A preliminary injunction can be requested from the competent court that has jurisdiction over a case prior to filing or the court before which a case is filed. Applicants must determine the grounds for making such a request in addition to the nature of the preliminary injunction being sought. They must also prove their claim to convince the court that the merits of the case are legitimate.
Article 5 of the Cheque Law imposes a judicial fine on cheque account owners for a bounced cheque. These fines cannot be less than the amount of the bounced cheque plus the accrued interest on the cheque's submission date and the total fees for execution and legal proceedings. Several courts recently applied to the Constitutional Court to request the annulment of Article 5 based on, among other things, the uncertain criteria used to calculate such fines.
Due to the need for the existing court procedural rules and organisational structure to be harmonised with the newly established three-tier court system, amendments have been made to the Code of Civil Procedure with the purpose of eliminating emergent problems in the functioning of regional appellate and administrative courts. The most remarkable amendment regards the period for appeal before the Court of Cassation.
The court of peace recently appointed the former partner of a liquidated company as a gratuitous bailee to preserve the company's books. The decision created an alternative approach to the preservation of the books of liquidated companies, which must be preserved by a court of peace. The new approach should help to address concerns regarding the court's limited amount of storage space for company books.
A recent Court of Appeals case concerned a resolution taken at a general assembly meeting where the signature of the shareholder plaintiff's representative had been forged. As it was established without doubt that the signature on the general assembly meeting minutes did not belong to the plaintiff's representative, the court declared that the decisions taken at the general assembly were null and void.
The recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitral awards in Turkey is subject to the International Private and Civil Procedure Law, under which enforcement actions must be filed before the civil courts of first instance, including certain specialised courts. The Court of Appeals has generally adopted a single approach regarding the jurisdiction of specialised courts in enforcement actions, but a recent decision has created uncertainty in that regard.
Internal corporate investigations are key to combating white collar crime and the monitoring of personal and corporate communications is an indispensable tool in this regard. While Turkey has no specific or well-developed legislation on monitoring employee emails in internal investigations, a recent Constitutional Court decision has clarified a number of relevant points.
As part of the New Judicial Reform Package, Article 12 of the Criminal Code was amended by Law 6545, which was recently published in the Official Gazette. Further to the amendment of Article 277 of the Criminal Code, which regulates the crime of intervening in a judicial process, any intervention during an investigation will no longer be a crime.