The Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ian Drennan (pictured), has welcomed the Government's approval of legislation that paves the way for the establishment of a new Corporate Enforcement Authority (CEA).
The Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 is due to be published in the coming weeks. It has been drafted on the basis of a general scheme approved in 2018.
It will turn the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into a statutory and independent agency, with more resources to investigate and prosecute white-collar crime.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has also approved an additional 14 civilian posts for the CEA, while the authority’s complement of gardaí will increase from seven to 16.
The bill gives the CEA the same functions and powers as the ODCE, but with some modifications to reflect the new commission structure.
- Encouraging compliance with the Companies Act 2014,
- Investigations of suspected offences and non-compliance under that act,
- Prosecution of summary offences,
- Referring indictable offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and
- The exercise of certain supervisory functions with respect to liquidators and receivers.
The bill provides for up to three full-time commissioners, or members, one of whom will be the CEA’s chairperson.
It also gives the body the ability to appoint its own staff, and there is also a section in the bill on the accountability of the CEA to Oireachtas committees.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said that the CEA would have more autonomy and resources to investigate suspected wrongdoing, and to deal with larger, more complex investigations.
It would also be able to recruit the specialist staff it needed for these cases, he added.
“With new technology and more sophisticated economic crime, it is more important than ever that we have a well-resourced, stand-alone agency, to identify those non-compliant with company law,” the minister said.
Minister of State with responsibility for company law Robert Troy said that the bill would strengthen Ireland’s regulatory framework for the conduct of business.
He is hoping that it can be enacted in the autumn session, clearing the way for the establishment of the CEA next year.