Wed, Jul. 28, 2004

Impressum Blackmail

CK - Washington.   German law requires in §6 of the Tele Services Act that certain internet content providers recite on websites detailed operator data--some of which criminals can use for identify theft purposes.

There are a number of operators who use an organized system of cease and desist demands and civil complaints to blackmail content providers into compliance. A recent case illustrates the operation and potential defense, as outlined in a string of forum notes, in German, at In that case, a certain Gottfried Stoiber is alleged to have demanded 425 Euros plus tax for violations of the disclosure obligation. Forum users quickly detected that Stoiber's purported organization, ISWI e.V., did not validly exist and was unauthorized for such activities. Among the groups fighting such blackmail, is the best known and most informative. See also Christiane Krüger's article Private Case-and-Desist Orders and Susanne Kreis' recent report on a Supreme Court decision.

Liability of Directors

SK - Washington.   On July 19, 2004, the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe decided three cases, docket numbers II ZR 217/03, II ZR 218/03 and II ZR 402/02 on the issue of personal liability of corporate board members for alleged deliberate deceptions of investors by publishing incorrect announcements. The court published a press release and the ruling should appear soon on its web site.

Plaintiffs, investors in the defendants' companies relied on the accuracy of statements disclosed in so-called Ad-Hoc notices. Stocks purchased in such reliance soon became worthless. The Court determined that not only corporations but also board members may be liable under torts principles if they have knowledge of incorrect announcements. The publication of Ad-Hoc reports which were known to be inaccurate meets the statutory requirement of "deliberate immoral damage”. Plaintiffs bear the burden of proof for the causation between incorrect announcements and individual buying decisions, which becomes lighter with the temporal proximity between the stock purchase and the inaccurate Ad-Hoc notice.

The decision is significant because of the improved protection for investors. Directors will not carelessly or deliberately publish false information to investors because their acts could fall under established fraud laws, as the court clarifies here.

EMail Filing

CK - Washington.   Brigitte Zypries, the Berlin Attorney General, announced today that the Cabinet approved a Justice Communications Bill to complete the transformation of the filing system by 2005. Documents capabable of electronic transmission are supposed to be filed in that manner. The necessary technical means exist in the courts and do not require any special tools on the part of users. The existing statutes require some tweaking because they focus on paper transactions.

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