Germany: Mandatory transparency for all companies with a public affairs department – Germany’s lobbying law deadline approaches

In short

Since January 1, 2022, Germany has implemented a mandatory public lobbying register. Its broad scope covers – like the EU Transparency Register – any entity that regularly communicates with the German federal executive or legislature to represent and promote its interests. As a result, any company with a public affairs department can fall within its scope. These businesses will need to finalize their initial registration no later than February 28, 2022. As this important deadline approaches, it is necessary for each business to assess whether registration with LobbyRG is necessary and, if so, what steps need to be taken and what internal information needs to be compiled to successfully enroll in the lobby register.

Contents

  1. Key points to remember

Key points to remember

The German Lobbying Act (Lobbyregistergesetz, “LobbyRG“) came into force on January 1, 2022. The law responds to public scrutiny of parallel activities

Who should register?

  • The LobbyRG applies to all natural or legal persons who engage, or instruct others to engage on their behalf, in “representation of interests“. The term “interest representation” is defined in a broad sense. It includes any communication to the German Federal Government (Bundesregierung) as well as to bodies, members and groups of the German Bundestag. The purpose of such communication must be to directly or indirectly influence the respective decision-making processes (Sec. 1 LobbyRG) The broad scope of the LobbyRG is therefore not limited to lobbying in the narrow sense, but similar to the broad scope of the transparency register of the EU.

  • Registration in the Lobby Register is mandatory under the LobbyRG if a company engages in “interest representation” regularly, and not only occasionally, or has started such communication and intends to do so regularly in the future (Sec. 2 para 1 no. 1, 2 LobbyRG). According to the (non-legally binding) manual of the Bundestag on the register of lobbyists, three contacts per year can already be called “regularly”. In practice, companies with a public affairs department or function are likely to meet this requirement, unless they fall under the legal exceptions.

  • The LobbyRG (Sec. 2 para 2, 3 LobbyRG) contains some exceptions the general registration obligation, for example contacts in the context of public hearings or public events and contacts at the express and specific request of the Bundestag or the Bundesregierung to provide information, data or expertise.

How to register?

  • In the event that registration in the lobby register is required, a company can register on the following website:

https://www.lobbyregister.bundestag.de/startseite

For registration, the information to be provided is not limited to key data concerning the company and its managing directors. It also includes the number of employees engaged in advocacy, annual expenses for advocacy, as well as government grants and subsidies received and third-party donations. Compiling this financial information is likely to create significant organizational effort. The law allows companies to opt out of this financial disclosure, but this non-disclosure will be highlighted in the lobbyist registry and will also be displayed in a separate public list (“naming and shaming”).

  • The deadline for the first registration is February 28, 2022 (Sec. 8 LobbyG). Therefore, each company must register “at once” once it falls within the scope of LobbyG (Art. 2 para. 1 LobbyG). Registration data must be updated at least annually (Sec. 3 para 3 LobbyG).

What else?

  • In addition to the registration requirements, the LobbyG also establishes “standards for full representation of interests“. According to Article 5 LobbyG, the representation of interests must be carried out in a transparent, honest and honest manner. During the first contact, the registration in the register of lobbyists must be disclosed to the counterpart of the Bundestag or the Bundesregierung ( and it must be disclosed if financial information is not provided to the register, i.e. “self-shame” before the official counterpart). Further details are provided in the Interest Representatives Code of Conduct under the LobbyG (“Verhaltenskodex für Interessenvertreterinnen und Interessenvertreter im Rahmen des Lobbyregistergesetzes“), with which each registered person or company must comply.

  • Failure to comply with the LobbyRG may result in a fine of up to EUR 50,000 (Sec. 7 LobbyRG) and may also result in termination of access privileges to the Bundestag (if applicable, Sec. 6 LobbyRG) . In addition, failure to register may result in reputational damage to the company concerned due to an alleged lack of transparency.

And after?

In conclusion, many companies will likely fall under the scope of LobbyG and will therefore need to register on the Lobbyist Registry by the end of February 2022. In fact, several large companies have already done so. Any company must therefore assess its commercial activities, its public affairs activities and its efforts to raise awareness of the government with regard to possible representation of interests within the meaning of LobbyG. In the event of regular communication with the German federal government or any other interaction that could influence government decision-making, registration in the lobbyist register should be strongly considered. Until the end of the February deadline, registration data must be prepared and the general market response to LobbyRG must be monitored.

The content is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. This may qualify as “lawyer advertising” requiring notice in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee similar results. For more information, please visit: www.bakermckenzie.com/en/disclaimers.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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