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Twenty Years Societas Europaea

Twenty Years Societas Europaea EDITORIAL JESSICA SCHMIDT: PROF. DR. LL.M. ON THE 8TH OF OCTOBER 2021, THE SOCIETAS EUROPAEA (SE) TURNS TWENTY – TIME TO CELEBRATE AND REFLECT ON TWO DECADES OF A EUROPEAN COMPANY TYPE THAT ALMOST NEVER WAS* The idea of a European company is as old as the European dream Similarly, the comparative popularity of the SE in the Czech itself. Nonetheless, it took more than four decades, one preliminary Republic seems to be (at least partly) due to the fact that it allowed draft (1966), four different official drafts (1970, 1975, 1989, 1991) simpler governance structures than Czech law did (at least until and ultimately some ‘good old horse-trading’ until an agreement 2014). was finally reached in December 2000 at the summit in Nice – after Apparently, the rather high minimum capital of 120 000 Euros decades of struggle, this truly seemed like a ‘Nice wonder’. From did not turn out to be a real hurdle. Nor did the rather complex there, agreement on the last finishing touches felt (almost) like plain ‘hodgepodge’ of EU law and national law governing the SE prove to sailing. The Regulation on the Statute of a European Company be a real obstacle in practice. Quite surprisingly, it also did not really (SER) and the supplementing Directive (SED) were finally adopted generate a lot of litigation. In fact, the first preliminary reference on the 8th of October 2001. concerning SE law (precisely: a co-determination issue) was made in Twenty years later, there are – despite all initial prophecies of 2020 and is yet to be decided by the CJEU (case C-677/20). doom (‘too expensive’, ‘too complicated’, ‘no need’) – more than Yet, the past twenty years have also shown that there is still 3000 Societas Europaea (SEs) all over Europe. Many large and well- room for improvement. First, the numerus clausus of formation known European enterprises now operate as an SE – Airbus SE, methods limited to certain types of legal entities (Article 2 SER) BASF SE, Porsche Holding SE, SAP SE, Schneider Electric SE, SCOR is an unjustified ‘straight-jacket’ which only generates costs and SE, Strabag SE and TotalEnergies SE are just a few prominent effort andhas ledtothe practice of using ‘shelf SEs’.Itshould examples. In fact, eight of the thirty DAX companies (26.6 %), eight be possible to form an SE ab initio or by way of a cross-border of the CAC forty companies (20 %) and eight of the EURO STOXX division. Secondly, the framework for the formation of an SE by fifty companies (16 %) are now SEs. But there are also many smaller merger, as a holding or by conversion should be aligned with European ‘hidden champions’ which have discovered the SE as an the new framework for cross-border operations introduced by attractive legal form for themselves. Moreover, in the context of the the Mobility Directive into Title II of the Company Law recent boom of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), the Directive (in particular: digitalization, harmonization of creditor SE has quickly become the legal form of choice for such SPACs in and minority shareholder protection). Thirdly, the requirement Europe. thattheregisteredoffice shallbelocated in thesameMember Indeed, the SE has much to offer: a European corporate iden- Stateasthe head office of theSE(Article7SER) is – although tity, the option to transfer the seat to another Member State in line with EU primary law – outdated and places the SE at a (although this will no longer be a ‘unique selling point’ once the disadvantage compared with the public limited liability compa- Mobility Directive has been fully implemented), the choice nies of most Member States. Finally, in light of the experiences between a one-tier and a two-tier board system, and the possibility and developments in the past twenty years, the rules on to negotiate employee involvement and thus achieve a tailor-made employee involvement should be updated and optimized (e.g., solution. Especially the options regarding employment involve- possibility for the relevant bodies of the companies to choose ment proved to be a huge factor for the success of the SE in directly to be subject to the standard rules without prior nego- Germany (where more than 700 SEs are registered). By changing tiations, minimum number of employees to trigger the nego- into an SE, companies can reduce the size of their supervisory tiation requirement, clear rules with respect to structural board; moreover, if a company converts into an SE before it changes after formation). reaches the national threshold for co-determination, it remains Notwithstanding, on its twentieth birthday, the SE undoubtedly free of co-determination even when the number of employees rises has reason to celebrate. From a company type that almost never was above the national threshold later (‘co-determination freeze’). it has blossomed into a European success story. Ad multos annos! * E-Mail: Jessica.Schmidt@uni-bayreuth.de. Schmidt Jessica. ‘Twenty Years Societas Europaea’. European Company Law Journal 18, no. 4 (2021): 116–116. © 2021 Kluwer Law International BV, The Netherlands http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png European Company Law Kluwer Law International

Twenty Years Societas Europaea

European Company Law , Volume 18 (4): 1 – Aug 1, 2021

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Abstract

EDITORIAL JESSICA SCHMIDT: PROF. DR. LL.M. ON THE 8TH OF OCTOBER 2021, THE SOCIETAS EUROPAEA (SE) TURNS TWENTY – TIME TO CELEBRATE AND REFLECT ON TWO DECADES OF A EUROPEAN COMPANY TYPE THAT ALMOST NEVER WAS* The idea of a European company is as old as the European dream Similarly, the comparative popularity of the SE in the Czech itself. Nonetheless, it took more than four decades, one preliminary Republic seems to be (at least partly) due to the fact that it allowed draft (1966), four different official drafts (1970, 1975, 1989, 1991) simpler governance structures than Czech law did (at least until and ultimately some ‘good old horse-trading’ until an agreement 2014). was finally reached in December 2000 at the summit in Nice – after Apparently, the rather high minimum capital of 120 000 Euros decades of struggle, this truly seemed like a ‘Nice wonder’. From did not turn out to be a real hurdle. Nor did the rather complex there, agreement on the last finishing touches felt (almost) like plain ‘hodgepodge’ of EU law and national law governing the SE prove to sailing. The Regulation on the Statute of a European Company be a real obstacle in practice. Quite surprisingly, it also did not really (SER) and the supplementing Directive (SED) were finally adopted generate a lot of litigation. In fact, the first preliminary reference on the 8th of October 2001. concerning SE law (precisely: a co-determination issue) was made in Twenty years later, there are – despite all initial prophecies of 2020 and is yet to be decided by the CJEU (case C-677/20). doom (‘too expensive’, ‘too complicated’, ‘no need’) – more than Yet, the past twenty years have also shown that there is still 3000 Societas Europaea (SEs) all over Europe. Many large and well- room for improvement. First, the numerus clausus of formation known European enterprises now operate as an SE – Airbus SE, methods limited to certain types of legal entities (Article 2 SER) BASF SE, Porsche Holding SE, SAP SE, Schneider Electric SE, SCOR is an unjustified ‘straight-jacket’ which only generates costs and SE, Strabag SE and TotalEnergies SE are just a few prominent effort andhas ledtothe practice of using ‘shelf SEs’.Itshould examples. In fact, eight of the thirty DAX companies (26.6 %), eight be possible to form an SE ab initio or by way of a cross-border of the CAC forty companies (20 %) and eight of the EURO STOXX division. Secondly, the framework for the formation of an SE by fifty companies (16 %) are now SEs. But there are also many smaller merger, as a holding or by conversion should be aligned with European ‘hidden champions’ which have discovered the SE as an the new framework for cross-border operations introduced by attractive legal form for themselves. Moreover, in the context of the the Mobility Directive into Title II of the Company Law recent boom of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), the Directive (in particular: digitalization, harmonization of creditor SE has quickly become the legal form of choice for such SPACs in and minority shareholder protection). Thirdly, the requirement Europe. thattheregisteredoffice shallbelocated in thesameMember Indeed, the SE has much to offer: a European corporate iden- Stateasthe head office of theSE(Article7SER) is – although tity, the option to transfer the seat to another Member State in line with EU primary law – outdated and places the SE at a (although this will no longer be a ‘unique selling point’ once the disadvantage compared with the public limited liability compa- Mobility Directive has been fully implemented), the choice nies of most Member States. Finally, in light of the experiences between a one-tier and a two-tier board system, and the possibility and developments in the past twenty years, the rules on to negotiate employee involvement and thus achieve a tailor-made employee involvement should be updated and optimized (e.g., solution. Especially the options regarding employment involve- possibility for the relevant bodies of the companies to choose ment proved to be a huge factor for the success of the SE in directly to be subject to the standard rules without prior nego- Germany (where more than 700 SEs are registered). By changing tiations, minimum number of employees to trigger the nego- into an SE, companies can reduce the size of their supervisory tiation requirement, clear rules with respect to structural board; moreover, if a company converts into an SE before it changes after formation). reaches the national threshold for co-determination, it remains Notwithstanding, on its twentieth birthday, the SE undoubtedly free of co-determination even when the number of employees rises has reason to celebrate. From a company type that almost never was above the national threshold later (‘co-determination freeze’). it has blossomed into a European success story. Ad multos annos! * E-Mail: Jessica.Schmidt@uni-bayreuth.de. Schmidt Jessica. ‘Twenty Years Societas Europaea’. European Company Law Journal 18, no. 4 (2021): 116–116. © 2021 Kluwer Law International BV, The Netherlands

Journal

European Company LawKluwer Law International

Published: Aug 1, 2021

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