Press release

The 2015 Reform of the Spanish Criminal Code: cases of exemption of criminal liability for legal entities, up for debate at the Pérez-Llorca/IE Chair on Commercial Law


The IE- Pérez-Llorca Chair on Commercial Law held a session on the 18th of March concerning the reform of the Spanish Criminal Code currently in the process of being approved by Congress and which will become effective on 1 July 2015. The seminar was opened by Diego del Alcázar, IE President. The speakers were Rafael Catalá, Minister of Justice and Antonio del Moral, Judge of the Criminal Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court. Antonio Camacho, Public Prosecutor on leave of absence and Counsel at Pérez-Llorca, moderated the debate.

Rafael Catalá discussed the main changes to the reform, emphasizing the need to ensure transparency and proper market performance in an increasingly more demanding social and political context. With respect to the criminal liability of legal persons, he explained the need to add a system of liability exemption to the current liability regime which has been in force since 2010. In such a system, entities which comply with certain requirements related to crime prevention would be exempt from criminal liability. Within this context, the Minister confirmed that the exemption system introduced by the reform also seeks to put in place the framework for collaboration between businesses and the State in order to prevent crime.

Antonio del Moral then took the floor to summarise the development of the criminal liability of legal persons. He reviewed the sentences handed down to entities convicted of a crime and pointed out that the only penalty that is always obligatory is that of a fine while he sees the rest (winding up, suspension of activity etc) as only being applicable to certain types of companies such as special purpose vehicles. Additionally, he stressed the considerable damage that can be done to a company’s reputation when they are accused of a crime. Lastly, he focused on the requirements (included in the new article 31 bis, subsection 2) entities must comply with in order to be exempt from criminal liability and explained that if not all of these requirements were complied with, mitigating circumstances could exist.

To conclude the seminar, Antonio Camacho led a debate between the speakers and various participants in which Ángel Juanes, Vice President of the Spanish Supreme Court and the General Council of the Spanish Judiciary, also spoke. The one-day seminar included various representatives from the Spanish business and legal worlds.