The Legal Affairs Committee of the National Council recently submitted an initiative that would temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad. The proposal claims that it will mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis by preventing foreign investors from acquiring financially distressed Swiss companies at low prices. However, as foreign investors improve the sales conditions for such companies by fostering demand, the amendment would actually be counterproductive.
The proposed COVID-19 Business Rental Act has failed in Parliament and is thus off the table on a national level. The main arguments for the dismissal included the retroactive intervention in private law contracts and the legal uncertainty with regard to the question of whether the proposed act had a sufficient constitutional basis. However, the topic of COVID-19 rent reductions will likely lead to court decisions in the future.
Swiss voters recently rejected a popular initiative that aimed to tighten the responsibilities of Swiss-based companies with respect to their global activities. One key element of the initiative was the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards. Both the federal government and Parliament considered the initiative to be too far reaching. Therefore, Parliament has presented a counter-proposal that will enter into force if no referendum is held.
In 2019 the Private International Law Act was revised with the aim of improving and facilitating the recognition and enforcement of foreign bankruptcy rulings. Foreign liquidators can now forgo the previously mandatory ancillary bankruptcy proceedings by filing a petition with the Swiss courts. Recent experiences have shown that the Swiss courts will normally grant such leave if they are satisfied that no privileged or secured creditors in Switzerland exist.
The Swiss emissions trading system (ETS) is an important market-based instrument for climate protection. It serves to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases produced by Swiss companies with particularly high emissions. Since 21 September 2020, Switzerland and the European Union have enabled emissions allowance transactions between the Swiss ETS and the EU ETS.
Company boards of directors have a duty to continuously monitor the company's financial situation and take certain measures if it gets into financial difficulties. Given the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has temporarily suspended their duty to notify the bankruptcy court in the event of imminent overindebtedness where there is a possibility that this situation can be remedied after the crisis.
The Federal Council recently submitted to Parliament a preliminary draft federal act on rent payments during the COVID-19 lockdown and opened the consultation procedure with the cantons, political parties and interested organisations. The act is a political decision and its constitutional basis is questionable. Further, a number of the suggested provisions leave room for improvement.
Originally, unlike in other jurisdictions, the purpose of a moratorium in Switzerland was not necessarily to continue doing business, but rather to find a better way to liquidate a company; however, this has changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. There is now another type of moratorium under Swiss law (although probably only until 20 October 2020), which is intended to promote restructuring.
The Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication recently launched the consultation process for a partial revision of the CO2 Ordinance. Amendments to the ordinance are necessary to extend certain climate protection measures until the end of 2021, as recently decided by Parliament.
Numerous shops, restaurants and other facilities throughout Switzerland have had to close their businesses due to emergency regulations issued to combat COVID-19. This has led to the question of whether the tenants of such premises are still obliged to pay rent or whether they are entitled to a full or partial rent reduction. Despite many opinions having been expressed in the legal community and by politicians, this question remains as unanswered as it was at the beginning of the lockdown.
In response to growing market needs, several cantons have introduced an electronic procedure for building permit requests. The improved applications and increased transparency with regard to the documentation and the status of building permit procedures enable planners to carry out projects more efficiently. This is a major advantage, especially for institutional investors and project developers.
The general view in Switzerland is that cryptocurrencies are intangible assets sui generis and as such can be subject to regular debt enforcement and insolvency proceedings in Switzerland (provided that these cryptocurrencies have a financial value). This article highlights the particularities to be considered when cryptocurrencies are the target of an attachment procedure (ie, a freezing order) in Switzerland.
This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect in recent months or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. Recent developments in this area concern, among other things, CO2 emissions, waste and recycling, contaminated site and soil protection, genetic engineering and new statutory limitation periods.
As of 1 July 2020, new provisions will apply to electronic access to land register data. Whereas current access to electronic land register data is highly restricted, the new legal provisions of the Federal Ordinance on the Land Register extend access to electronic land register data for specified parties. While the ordinance provides the basis for this extended access to land registers, it is up to the cantons to decide whether they wish to introduce it.
In 2016 the so-called 'Responsible Business Initiative' was submitted to the Swiss Federal Chancellery. A key element of the initiative is the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards in all of their business activities worldwide. As the popular vote on the initiative is expected to take place in February 2020, Swiss-based companies should analyse whether they may be affected and, if so, determine appropriate implementation measures.
The recent insolvency of German-Swiss cryptocurrency mining venture Envion AG inevitably begs the question of how cryptocurrencies should be treated in debt enforcement and insolvency proceedings. Further, the fact that cryptocurrencies have a number of particularities which distinguish them from other asset categories raises numerous questions relating to (for example) the seizure, attachment and liquidation of cryptocurrencies from a Swiss insolvency law perspective.
According to federal planning principles, the cantons and municipalities must guarantee free public access to lakesides and riverbanks. However, some cantons have not yet implemented the required legislation, not least because of objections from private landowners. This article outlines the applicable federal legal framework and highlights examples of its implementation by two cantons.
This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect in recent months or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. Recent developments in this area affect, among other things, plant and water protection, chemicals, non-ionising radiation, energy and CO2 reduction.
In June 2018 the House of Representatives narrowly voted to support a bill which proposes additional protection from claw-back actions for creditors which grant loans that are pre‑approved by an insolvency administrator. While the next steps in the legislative process are unclear, the House of Representatives will likely reopen the debate on this bill in its next session in Summer 2019.
While it remains unclear when and on what terms Brexit will happen, the United Kingdom and Switzerland recently signed an agreement on citizens' rights which covers the purchase and retention of real estate by UK citizens in Switzerland and vice versa. After Brexit, UK citizens with a legal and actual Swiss residence will require a permanent Swiss residence permit (C permit). Otherwise, they will be considered persons abroad and will be subject to the Lex Koller restrictions.