The ministries of finance and justice have drafted a bill establishing an independent audit office for the examination of the accounts of companies with stock exchange quotes.

The ministries of finance and justice have drafted a bill establishing an independent audit office for the examination of the accounts of companies with stock exchange quotes. Examination is both on suspicion of irregularity and by way of random test check. Examinations are to be independent of the regular audit of a company and cannot be taken in satisfaction of the company's audit obligation. The Audit Office is not to be invested with direct powers of enforcement; the hope is that companies will cooperate with the Office and voluntarily accept its remedial suggestions. If, however, the Office meets with a refusal to cooperate or comply, it should inform the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bafin) rather than impose its own sanctions. The Authority will then undertake its own investigation and on the basis of its own findings may order an offending company to restate its accounts or otherwise take appropriate steps. Office or Bafin must notify any irregularities involving the company's auditor to the Chamber of Public Accountants. Breaches of accounting and reporting provisions are to be notified to the public prosecutors or other enforcement authority. These may pass on the word to the tax authorities if there is suspicion of tax evasion. However, the tax authorities have no claim on the Office or Bafin for assistance of any kind. The Office will be financed by the Bafin. The Bafin covers these as well as its own costs from an annual levy on all companies quoted on German stock exchanges. The Bafin can also make special charges on companies under special investigations.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.