On 7 July, in the context of the Volkswagen diesel matter, the German Federal Constitutional Court rendered its decision that the public prosecutor was allowed to search the offices of law firm Jones Day. According to the Court, the seizure of documents did not violate Volkswagen‘s constitutional rights. Further, Jones Day as a foreign law firm with its administrative center abroad has no standing to bring a constitutional complaint as it cannot rely on constitutional rights.
This decision will fuel further debate about the scope of privilege especially in the context of internal investigations. Beyond this issue, it is noteworthy that only domestic legal entities are vested with fundamental rights. Next to implications of Brexit, the decision is another factor to consider in structuring law firms‘ international operations.
Ordering the search of the Munich office of the law firm Jones Day and upholding the securing of the documents found for the purpose of examination is not objectionable under constitutional law. (...) In its reasoning, the Chamber stated that the securing of the documents neither constitutes a violation of the Volkswagen AG’s right to informational self-determination nor of its right to a fair trial, and that there is no recognised legal interest in bringing an action concerning the search. The law firm Jones Day is not a holder of fundamental rights and, therefore, does not have standing to lodge a constitutional complaint; the lawyers working for Jones Day do not have any apparent standing to lodge a constitutional complaint.