Changes with respect to liability of collective entities
The government’s draft of the Act on liability of collective entities was introduced in the Parliament. The Ministry of Justice stated that the currently effective regulations are inefficient, as they do not contribute to preventing and combating economic and fiscal offenses. According to the Act, collective entities include, among others, partnerships and companies, as well as cooperatives. Proposed amendments apply to numerous business entities.
The amendment provides for an increase in the statutory amount of financial penalties. Pursuant to the draft, the amount of penalty will no longer be directly correlated with the income achieved by the entity. This is to allow for imposing financial penalties on entities that have assets, but do not disclose their revenue. The new draft bill sets forth penalties starting from PLN 30,000 and reaching up to PLN 30 million. Additionally, it provides for an entirely new penalty in the form of the dissolution of a collective entity. This is the most severe penalty that can be imposed and in principle is to be the extreme tool used in case when other statutory measures will fail to give desired results.
Additionally, the amendment introduces regulations to protect the person who exposes any kind of information about major irregularities in the operations of a collective entity – the whistleblower. A penalty of up to PLN 60 million can be imposed on the collective entity if a whistleblower’s information is ignored, or he or she is fired, should the accusations be confirmed.
Pursuant to the current regulations, a collective entity can be held liable only for offenses stipulated in the Act. The amendment provides for opening of that list. The entity shall be held liable for any offense prosecuted by public indictment or for fiscal offenses (except of press offenses).
It is important to emphasize that according to the government project, not only offenses committed in relation to the entity’s business activities will punishable. Also negligence when choosing an entity to cooperate with will be subject to punishment. This means that delegating tasks or entrusting activities to an ill-chosen person or enterprise can also be punishable.
Another change with respect to the current regulations is that it will be no longer required to sentence an individual for the committed offense in order to hold a collective entity liable and punish it. Therefore, proceedings against a natural person will take place independently from the proceedings aimed at punishing the collective entity, and will not hold back the commencement of the proceedings against the collective entity.
The draft bill is currently being consulted by a number of organizations, i.a. the Polish Chamber of Commerce, or the National Labour Inspectorate (PIP). Organizations associating employers are protesting against the tightening of the regulations. It is vital to carefully follow further works on the bill, as they impact many entrepreneurs.