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Signa: Zadic is planning higher penalties for accounting offenders

Signa: Zadic is planning higher penalties for accounting offenders
Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens)
Image: (APA/HELMUT FOHRINGER)

After the bankruptcy of the Signa companies, Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) is now presenting a plan that is intended to encourage defaulting companies to publish their company financial statements in a timely manner. The central point is a significant increase in the penalty range. In the worst case, a company would have to pay up to five percent of its global sales.
In Austria, companies have to publish their balance sheets – the larger the company, the more detailed the regulations. With a large number of companies, Signa has made it very difficult to obtain an overview of the company’s overall economic situation and has either not filed balance sheets or only filed them late.

  • Read on the topic: Comment: (In)Transparent [OÖNplus]

Penalties are manageable

The penalties for this are still manageable, starting at 700 euros for medium-sized companies, which increase with each violation. In the future, the penalties should start at 2,100 euros; for large companies, up to 20,000 euros should be possible, and for those of great public interest even 50,000 euros. The wave of Signa bankruptcies has shown that the current penalties are not enough, says Zadic. “It will therefore be necessary to increase the penalties so that even large corporations can no longer ignore them.” Corporations that repeatedly ignore the regulations even face a penalty of up to five percent of their global annual turnover. The aggregation obligations for corporations should also be expanded. False statements should be punished with up to two million euros.
Zadic’s proposal has not yet been agreed with the coalition partner ÖVP. Ö1 quotes General Secretary Christian Stocker: “The ÖVP is in favor of an overall package that provides for increased penalties wherever Austrians are deceived and harassed, be it in the case of accounting concealments or sabotage actions using climate glue.” The opposition welcomed Zadic’s move.

Michael Ahammer, who speaks as a partner for KPMG in Upper Austria, has doubts as to whether the increase in penalties will have the desired effect. But he also advises complying with publication obligations and finds it difficult to understand why many entrepreneurs shy away from doing so. Legal ways would also be chosen to avoid having to file a balance sheet, for example through partnerships.

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