Criminal law on balance sheet offences

General information

Decision-makers of an association and representatives thereof may be liable to prosecution for balance sheet offences under the StGB.

Under criminal law on balance sheet offences, the term ‘associations’ includes, for example, GmbH, AG, cooperatives, large organisations, private foundations. The term decision-maker refers to anyone who

  • is a managing director, member of the board or authorised signatory or, as a result of a corporate or legal power of representation, has a comparable authorisation to represent the association externally;
  • is a member of the supervisory board or the board of directors or otherwise exercises supervisory powers in an executive position;
  • exercises other significant influence on the board of management of the association.

These individuals are liable to prosecution if they

  • present important essential information as to the company’s asset, financial or profit situation or for the purposes of assessing the future development of the asset, financial or profit situation;
  • in a specific medium, e.g. in a financial statement, a different report or during the shareholders’ or general meeting;
  • incorrectly or incompletely in an unacceptable manner;
  • and this conduct is liable (there is a sufficient possibility) to cause considerable damage to the association, its shareholders, members or creditors or to investors.

This is punishable by law with a custodial sentence of up to 2 or 3 years (for listed companies).

Please note

In Austria, criminal acts committed abroad are also punishable by law, regardless of the law in the country in which it was committed, if the association’s principal place of business or headquarters is located in Austria.

Legal Basis

Sections 163a, 163b Strafgesetzbuch (StGB)

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 1 January 2023

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Justice

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