Durchgriffshaftung nach US.Recht

21.05.20081293 Mal gelesen

Teil unserer Projekte mit dem Ziel der Risikominimierung betreffend Produkthaftung und U.S.
Geschäftstätigkeit und Reduzierung der Gefahr eines Rückgriffs auf die deutsche
Muttergesellschaft oder persönliche Gesellschafter ist unter anderem die Auseinandersetzung
mit dem Institut des Haftungsdurchgriffs nach U.S. Recht, dem sogenannten piercing the
corporate veil. Nachfolgend haben wir für Sie einmal die Voraussetzung eines nach U.S.
Recht möglichen Haftungsdurchgriffes – aufgrund der im U.S. Recht und Rechtsprechung
verankerten Voraussetzungen der Einfachheit halber in englisch - dargestellt. Darüber hinaus
muss schon bei Gründung oder im unmittelbaren Nachlauf durch entsprechende
Vertragsgestaltung das Risiko zusätzlich reduziert werden.

Although a shareholder of a corporation is generally not liable for the obligations of the corporation,
under certain circumstances courts will disregard the existence of the corporation and impose personal
liability on shareholders for obligations of the corporation arising either in tort or contract. Courts call
this “piercing the corporate veil.” The willingness of courts to disregard the corporation varies from
state to state. The rationale often employed by the courts for piercing the corporate veil is that the
corporation has been managed in ways that ignore, or are inconsistent with, the concept of the
corporation as a separate entity. Historically, the doctrine of piercing the corporate veil has only been
used successfully against shareholders of closely held corporations. Consequently, directors of closely
held corporations should be aware of the possible consequences to shareholders of lax management
practices and should seek to avoid conditions that might expose shareholders to personal liability. A
number of important factors have been cited as justification for piercing the corporate veil in those
cases that have resulted in shareholder liability:

• Inadequate capitalization from inception. One of the reasons frequently cited by courts for piercing
the corporate veil is that the corporation had never received adequate capital to operate the business
and provide for the foreseeable obligations and risks inherent in the business. In a tort case, for
example, where the plaintiff is injured in an accident involving a corporate vehicle and the corporation
does not have adequate insurance coverage, undercapitalization from inception might be sufficient in
itself to justify piercing.

• Fraud or misrepresentation. In a contract case, where the plaintiff has voluntarily chosen to enter
into the contract with the corporation, courts typically require that some element of deception or
inequity be involved to justify piercing the veil. Misrepresenting the finances of the corporation or
otherwise misleading the plaintiff could supply the necessary element.

• Commingling corporate and shareholder assets; siphoning off profits. Courts have also cited
indiscriminate use of corporate funds or other assets for personal, non-business purposes, or
withdrawing funds needed for corporate operations, as factors in support of piercing.

• Inattention to corporate formalities. Failure to observe corporate formalities is one of the most
frequently cited factors justifying disregard of the corporate entity. Failure to adopt bylaws, hold annual
meetings and keep minutes and records are factors that militate in favor of piercing.