Following the ECJ's recent case law on EC freedom of establishment (the Centros, Überseering and Inspire Art cases), regulatory competition for corporate law within the European Union takes place at an early stage of the incorporation of new companies. In contrast, as regards the ‘moving out’ of companies from the country of incorporation, the ECJ once considered a tax law restriction against the transfer abroad of a company's administrative seat as compatible with EC freedom of establishment (the Daily Mail case). For years, this decision has been regarded as applicable to all restrictions imposed by countries of incorporation, even the forced liquidation of the ‘emigrating’ company. This paper addresses the question whether EC freedom of establishment really allows Member States to place any limit on the ‘emigration’ of nationally registered companies. It argues that EC freedom of establishment covers the transfer of the administrative seat as well as the transfer of the registered office and, therefore, that the country of incorporation cannot liquidate ‘emigrating’ companies. In addition, it addresses the question whether a new Directive is needed to allow the transfer of a company's registered office and identity-preserving company law changes. It argues that such a Directive is necessary to avoid legal uncertainty and to protect the interests of employees, creditors and minority shareholders, among others, who could be detrimentally affected by the ‘emigration’ of national companies.
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