It has become customary in Chile that every time a media case breaks out, voices appear announcing new legislative projects and asking for more laws to punish these facts. This has also been the case with the scandals of bad business practices that we have witnessed in recent years.
But what these opinions hide is ignorance. Many of those who launch ideas through the press ignore that there already exists in our current legislation the necessary tool to punish the criminal liability of companies.
This is the case of Law No. 20.393, which dates back to 2009, and was passed to adapt to the entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
This law, which establishes the Criminal Liability of Legal Entities in the Crimes of Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism, and Bribery, imposes direct punishments on the companies involved, including the dissolution of the company, in addition to other sanctions such as loss of tax benefits, prohibition to enter into contracts with the State, and fines of up to US$1.5 million, among others.
The State Defense Council has sued on several occasions using Law 20.393 in episodes of public connotation, such as the Penta case. And recently, when the courts ruled against the first convicts in the CNA case for irregularities in the delivery of accreditations for universities, a fine of 2,000 UTM was applied to the Universidad del Mar (more than 91 million pesos), appealing to Law 20,393.
But Law No. 20.393 goes far beyond its punitive dimension because a fundamental aspect of its content is that it introduces a change of paradigm, by promoting the existence of a crime prevention model within the company.
Today, many companies continue to sit back and relax because they have a “code of ethics”, but we know that this is not enough. That is why this Law No. 20,393 implies a new way of conceiving the management of companies, an innovation in the way of establishing relations between top executives and employees and linking with consumers, suppliers, and public authorities.
This can be summed up in a single word, compliance, a concept that must be increasingly internalized in the management of a company and that represents a complete change of mind in the pursuit of good corporate practices.
My position is simple, we do not need more laws, it is enough to know the existing ones, and apply them in their full dimension.
By Susana Sierra