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Determining the appropiate information basis for business decisions

Responsible person

PH Dr. Matthias Graumann

Project

The research question is: How can managers ensure an "appropriate basis of information" in the sense of section 93 paragraph 1 clause 2 AktG in order to meet their duty of care? 

The background is the legal fact that corporations under private law, which mainly include corporations such as the AG and the GmbH and, as corporations, the cooperatives, are subject to the principle of external bodies as legal entities. They require representation by an independent organ, the board of directors (AG; cooperative) or the managing director (GmbH). This creates an economic dependence of the owners of the company (shareholders; associates; comrades) on the legal compliance and diligence with which the managers carry out their activities. In order to counter this agency problem, the relevant laws establish the obligation for the respective organ to apply the care of a "proper and conscientious manager" when carrying out its activities (section 43 paragraph 1 GmbHG; section 93 paragraph 1 clause 1 AktG, section 34 paragraph 1 GenG). Violations of this lead, within the framework of the so-called internal liability, to the compensation of the managers, who are personally liable to their companies in this respect (section 43 paragraph 2 GmbHG, section 93 paragraph 2 AktG; section 34 paragraph 2 GenG). 

On this basis, the legislator introduced for the first time a liability exemption with the Act on Corporate Integrity and Modernisation of the Right of Rescission (UMAG), which came into force on 01.11.2005, in order to avoid that the entrepreneurial freedom of decision is impaired by incalculable liability risks. A new clause 2 was implemented in section 93 paragraph 1 AktG, which applies to all legal forms of entrepreneurial activity and regulates the following: A breach of duty by the Management Board or Supervisory Board (section 93 paragraph 1 clause 1, paragraph 2; section 116 AktG) does not constitute a breach of duty that would give rise to damages if the management body could reasonably assume, when making a business decision, that it was acting in the best interests of its company on the basis of appropriate information ("Business Judgment Rule"). So far, so good. But how do you determine the required "appropriate information basis"?

The legal profession - traditionally sceptical about recourse to business knowledge - has for years refrained from answering this question. The reasoning behind this is that the requirements for an appropriate information basis cannot be generalised, but must be determined anew for each individual case. However, if one is content to leave the solution to this problem to the courts, the Business Judgment Rule does not do justice to the legislative objective of also promoting risk decisions as an expression of lawful economic activity, provided that they rest on high-quality information. Of course, the reference to the individual case character of an appropriate information basis is to be agreed with in terms of content; the implication, however, that for this reason no more concrete statements can be formulated at all, is not convincing. As has already been shown in various publications, it is certainly possible to make a greater contribution to the determination of the appropriate information basis for entrepreneurial decisions than is assumed from a legal point of view, without negating the individual case character of each decision.  

Publications already available on the research project:

1.    Graumann, M.: Angemessene Informationsgrundlage von Prognosen bei unternehmerischen Entscheidungen. Erscheint in: Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht (ZIP), 40. Jg., 2020.

2.    Graumann, M./Grundei, J.: Nachweis einer „angemessenen Information“ im Sinne der Business Judgment Rule durch Rückgriff auf anerkannte betriebswirtschaftliche Verhaltensmaßstäbe – Das Beispiel der Eliminierung einer Leitungsebene im Hause Siemens. In: Zeitschrift für Corporate Governance, 10. Jg., 2015, S. 197-204.

3.    Graumann, M./Grundei, J.: Die Beurteilung der Informationsbasis zustimmungspflichtiger Geschäfte. In: Der Aufsichtsrat, 2014, Heft 2, S. 21-23.

4.    Graumann, M./Grundei, J.: Wann entsprechen unternehmerische Entscheidungen der gesellschaftsrechtlichen Anforderung „angemessener Information“? In: Die Betriebswirtschaft (DBW), 71. Jg., 2011, S. 379-399.

5.    Graumann, M.: Der Entscheidungsbegriff in § 93 Abs. 1 Satz 2 AktG – Rekonstruktion des traditionellen Verständnisses und Vorschlag für eine moderne Konzeption. In: Zeitschrift für Unternehmens- und Gesellschaftsrecht (ZGR), Band 40, 2011, S. 293–303.

6.    Graumann, M./Engelsleben, T.: Warum Geschäftsleiter für die Beurteilung der Informationsgrundlage von Prognosen ein regelbasiertes Verfahren benötigen – Überlegungen zur Leitungsorganisation vor gesellschaftsrechtlichem Hintergrund. In: Zeitschrift für Corporate Governance, 6. Jg., 2011, S. 69-75.

7.    Graumann, M.: Gesellschaftsrechtliche Anforderungen an die Informationsgrund¬lage unternehmerischer Entscheidungen – Versuch einer Konkretisierung unter Einbeziehung betriebswirtschaftlicher Erkenntnisse. In: Corporate Compliance Zeitschrift (CCZ), 3. Jg., 2010, S. 222-228.

8.    Graumann, M./Bialasinski, M./Beier, M.: Software-gestützte Erstellung von Entscheidungsbegründungen – Die verschärfte Managerhaftung eröffnet neue Chancen für Berater. In: Zeitschrift der Unternehmensberatung. 4. Jg., 2009, S. 122-128 und S. 181-186.

9.    Graumann, M./Linderhaus, H./Grundei, J.: Wann ist die Risikobereitschaft bei unternehmerischen Entscheidungen „in unzulässiger Weise überspannt“? In: Betriebswirtschaftliche Forschung und Praxis (BFuP), 61. Jg., 2009, S. 492-505.

10.    Graumann, M./Grundei, J./Linderhaus, H.: Ausübung des Geschäftsleiterermessens bei riskanten Entscheidungen – Die Business Judgment Rule als Beitrag zu guter Corporate Governance. In: Zeitschrift für Corporate Governance, 4. Jg., 2009, S. 20-26.