This week, the 2012 German Jurists Forum (Deutscher Juristentag) took place in München. The German Jurists Forum is a bi-annual conference organized by the Association of German Jurists. The Association’s history goes back more than 150 years – the München German Jurists Forum was the 69th Forum of its kind. The Forum brings together lawyers in private practice, in-house lawyers, civil servants, judges and academics to discuss legal reform projects and legal policy. It has time and time again proved rather influential. Its deliberations receive wide coverage in the legal and non-legal press alike. This year, the topics, to name only some, ranged from consumer protection (civil law/contract law section) to cyber crime (criminal law section), and from privacy and data protection in the internet age (IT law section) to corporate governance (business law section).
The Forum’s sections appoint rapporteuers, who produce very detailed and elaborate reports on the topics. These reports published prior to the Forum and sent to all its approx. 8,000 members, of which some 3,000 usually attend the Forum. The reports are discussed in the sections over a period of almost two full days, and each discussion culminates in a formal vote on recommendations to the legislators.
For example, the business law section, as part of a wide-ranging discussion of corporate governance issues, mandatory quotas for female representation on corporate (supervisory) boards rejected with an overwhelming majority. Timing could not have been better, since the same week, the Upper House (Bundesrat) resolved to introduce a mandatory 40% quota on supervisory boards (Aufsichtsrat) of listed companies. One dispute related item on the business law section’s agenda was the reform of derivative shareholder suits (Aktionärsklage; Sec. 148 German Stock Corporation Act; AktG). Suggestions that the thresholds for derivative shareholders suits should be relaxed were thoroughly voted down.
The civil law section voted in favour of a clear distinction between B2B and B2C contracts in the applications of the rules on general terms and conditions, a distinction that is in the law, but which the courts have increasingly ignored. On a dispute related point, the section voted, albeit with a narrow margin, in favour of equal treatment of arbitration clauses (Schiedsvereinbarungen) and agreements on the choice of venue (Gerichtsstandsvereinbarungen) regarding their admissibility in consumer contracts.