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Corporate Compliance: A Ruling from the Court of Milan Further Clarifies How to Prevent Corporate Criminal Liability in Case of Directors’ Criminal Violations

The Italian Supreme Court recently stated that the director’s criminal liability cannot automatically trigger the recognition of corporate criminal liability, as company’s organizational fault must be specifically demonstrated by the Public Prosecutor.[1] Now, the Court of Milan[2] specifically clarifies how an appropriate and effective Organization, Management and Control Model (Model 231) pursuant to Italian Legislative Decree 231/01 (Decree 231) can shield the company from corporate criminal liability.

On January 25, 2024, the Court of Milan convicted the senior managers of an Italian joint-stock company (owned by a foreign-based multinational company) for false corporate communications, pursuant to Article 2621 of the Italian Civil Code (ICC), which provides the criminal liability of directors, general managers, managers in charge of preparing corporate accounting documents, auditors and liquidators when they represent false material facts or they omit material facts whose disclosure is required by law concerning the economic or financial situation of the company or the group.

The Court’s Overview of the Preconditions for Corporate Liability for Criminal Violations

In addition to the analysis of the liability of natural persons, the Court of Milan examined the legal requirements for the company to be deemed liable for crimes committed by

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Claim for Damages Against Directors of a Foreign Company: Do Italian Courts Have Jurisdiction?

Corporate disputes often have a transnational dimension, including in connection with directors liability for wrongdoing. Italian courts are frequently called to decide claims against corporate directors with links with other legal systems, such as the company being incorporated under the laws of a foreign State. This poses relevant procedural issues.

The Court of Milan (decision no 4789/2023) provided valuable insights on the application of the criteria to determine jurisdiction and applicable law in case of a claim brought by a shareholder of a company incorporated outside Italy against the sole director (having his domicile in Italy).

The Dispute

The dispute originates from a complaint brought by the minority shareholder of a limited liability company incorporated under the laws of the United Republic of Tanzania, against the other shareholder and sole director of the company (an Italian resident), allegedly responsible for misappropriation of company’s funds. On these grounds the minority shareholder (assuming that Italian substantive law was applicable to the dispute) brought two actions against the sole director:

  • a derivative claim under Article 2393-bis of the Italian Civil Code (ICC), according to which the minority shareholder is entitled to act against directors on behalf and in the interest of the

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