Kyiv, November 12, 2014. A roundtable of experts, activists and victims of corporate raiding [in Ukraine it mostly stands for hostile takeover of a company or business through illegal actions – Ed.] met at Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv to discuss the phenomenon of corporate raiding in Ukraine. Corporate raiding often involves the forging of financial documents and other illegal actions in order to strip a company of its assets or deprive owners of their company. The panelists shared their inputs about Ukraine’s contemporary challenges related to this practice in the post-Maidan revolution era. Speakers spoke about their own outlook on corporate raiding, the roots of the problem, and how best to tackle the issue.
Several participants of the round table noted that the problem of corporate raiding was damaging Ukraine’s economy as a whole. The practice, and the inability of the court system to rectify widespread abuses, suppresses foreign investment and greatly increases risks for entrepreneurs, noted the participants. Although corporate raiding in Ukraine has existed at least since the country’s independence, the practice intensified in frequency during the former presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. Laws passed in 2011, which were ostensibly created to make it easier for Ukrainians and foreigners to register businesses in the country, instead allowed criminals to take over business entities. Without a functional court system, legal processes could not rectify the situation.
“We need to tell our politicians, our government officials, the serious nature of the problem and the need to counter it,” stated Olga Solonevych, a member of activist organization ‘Business Against Raiders.’ Other panelists worried that despite the success of the Maidan movement, which sought to weed out corruption from Ukrainian society, there have not been serious reforms to the political or judicial systems. “Despite Maidan, nothing has really changed. The process may take years to get to the crux of the matter,” said Vitaliy Mahinchuk of Interlizinvest. “This nightmare was started with a law that was supposed to simplify business in Ukraine.”
Another panelist, Leonid Antonenko, stressed that the reasons for the problem of corporate raiding goes much deeper than merely Ukrainian law and legal standards. “I think that the root of the problem is the entire process,” he said. “When authorities are tolerant of this situation then it is possible to fake and doctor any sort of documents.” Laws that work in developed countries with strong business cultures don’t necessarily work in Ukraine and might in fact make the problem worse. In Ukraine, the court system is subjugated to the needs of the executive power and enforcement of the law is all but impossible.
Although many of the panelists were once hopeful that reforms resulting from the Maidan movement might improve Ukraine’s business environment, many have given up any hope of positive developments in the near future. “After Maidan, I congratulated people around me with hope that we might see the rule of law,” said Oleksandr Appelhans, a German citizen and victim of corporate raiding in Ukraine. “Now I see that the skepticism was well-grounded.” Panelists largely agreed that Ukraine needed an independent court system that treats all parties fairly and a strong legal framework that can prevent financial crimes and raiding.