|The German Corporate Governance Code (the "Code") presents essential statutory regulations for the management and supervision (governance) of German listed companies and contains internationally and nationally recognized standards for good and responsible governance. The Code aims to make the German Corporate Governance system transparent and understandable. Its purpose is to promote the trust of international and national investors, customers, employees and the general public in the management and supervision of listed German stock corporations.
The Code clarifies the obligation of the Management Board and the Supervisory Board to ensure the continued existence of the enterprise and its sustainable creation of value in conformity with the principles of the social market economy (interest of the enterprise).
A dual board system is prescribed by law for German stock corporations:
The Management Board is responsible for managing the enterprise. Its members are jointly accountable for the management of the enterprise. The Chairman of the Management Board coordinates the work of the Management Board.
The Supervisory Board appoints, supervises and advises the members of the Management Board and is directly involved in decisions of fundamental importance to the enterprise. The chairman of the Supervisory Board coordinates the work of the Supervisory Board.
The members of the Supervisory Board are elected by the shareholders at the General Meeting. In enterprises having more than 500 or 2000 employees in Germany, employees are also represented in the Supervisory Board, which then is composed of employee representatives to one third or to one half respectively. For enterprises with more than 2000 employees, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, who, for all practical purposes, is a representative of the shareholders, has the casting vote in the case of split resolutions. The representatives elected by the shareholders and the representatives of the employees are equally obliged to act in the enterprise's best interests.
Alternatively the European Company (SE) gives enterprises in Germany the possibility of opting for the internationally widespread system of governance by a single body (board of directors).
The form that codetermination takes in the SE is established generally by agreement between the company management and the employee side. All employees in the EU member states are included.
The accounting standards of German enterprises are oriented on the “true and fair view” principle and must present a fair picture of the actual conditions of the asset, financial and earnings situations of the enterprise.
The recommendations of the Code are marked in the text by use of the word "shall". Companies can deviate from them, but are then obliged to disclose this annually and to justify the deviations (comply or explain). This enables companies to reflect sector or enterprise-specific requirements. A well justified deviation from a Code recommendation may be in the interest of good corporate governance. Thus, the Code contributes to more flexibility and more self-regulation in the German corporate constitution. Furthermore, the Code contains suggestions which can be deviated from without disclosure; for this the Code uses the term "should". The remaining passages of the Code not marked by these terms contain descriptions of legal regulations and explanations.
For Code stipulations relating to not only the listed company itself but also its group companies, the term “enterprise” is used instead of "company".
Primarily, the Code addresses listed corporations and corporations with capital market access pursuant to Section 161 (1) sentence 2 of the Stock Corporation Act. It is recommended that companies not focused on the capital market also respect the Code.
As a rule the Code will be reviewed annually against the background of national and international developments and be adjusted, if necessary.