The CJEU Vantaan kaupunki case: piercing the corporate veil via private enforcement of EU competition law

A post by Jasper Van Eetvelde & Michiel Verhulst

The CJEU judgement on the 14th of March 2019 in the Vantaan kaupunki case shows the increasing spillover effects of the public enforcement of competition law on the private enforcement thereof. The CJEU found that the concept of ‘undertaking’ as autonomously interpreted in competition law is applicable when claiming for damages on the basis of breaches of EU competition law. This has far-reaching consequences, since it implies that both the principles of parental liability and economic continuity are henceforth part of the national rules on the private enforcement of EU competition law. This triggers some reflections on corporate law on voluntary winding-up in general and the usefulness of focussing on the economic reality outside competition law. Continue reading “The CJEU Vantaan kaupunki case: piercing the corporate veil via private enforcement of EU competition law”

‘Enterprise liability’ for entities of a group?

Allowing creditors of one member of a corporate group to pierce horizontally to reach the assets of other members

Belgian private law is traditionally very distrustful of asset partitioning in the shape of both owner shielding and entity shielding. It has inherited from the 19th century French doctrine (Aubry & Rau) the idea that: (i) only persons have an estate; and (ii) every person has only one estate. An ‘estate’ (‘vermogen’ / ‘patrimoine’) is a pool of assets which serves as collateral for a pool of liabilities. Accordingly, the traditional théorie du patrimoine entails that a person cannot have separate pools of assets which serve as collateral for separate pools of liabilities. This theory betrays a strong distrust of asset partitioning, both internal and external.

In the beginning of the 19th century the rule ‘one person, one and only one estate’ was generally understood as referring to natural persons. The incorporation of legal persons, particularly of legal persons with owner shielding (limited liability), was exceptional and restricted. It was limited to certain types of activities and subject to governmental authorization. As a result, the 19th century doctrine of ‘one person, one and only one estate’, while at face value barely modified, presently has completely different practical consequences. Presently a natural person can easily incorporate, control and benefit from, one or more legal persons.

This raises the important question: Why is the traditional animus against asset partitioning not an issue, or less so,  in case the technique of the corporate form with legal personality is used to bring about such asset partitioning? Continue reading “‘Enterprise liability’ for entities of a group?”