• Corporate
  • Governance

In the corporate management statement in accordance with sections 289a, 315 (5) HGB, freenet AG displays its current declaration of compliance in accordance with section 161 of the German Stock Corporation Act (AktG) and explains the relevant disclosures about corporate management practices that are applied over and above the statutory provisions. In addition, the working methods of the Executive and Supervisory Boards are described and the composition and working methods of the Supervisory Board’s committees are disclosed. Also to be found in the following are the information regarding the percentage of women in the Executive Board and in the two management tiers below the level of the Executive Board, as well as information regarding compliance with minimum percentages of women on the Supervisory Board.

freenet AG made the following corporate management statement in accordance with sections 289a, 315 (5) HGB which is simultaneously a part of its management report for the financial year 2016.

I. Declaration in accordance with section 161 of the Stock Corporation Act (AktG)

Since submitting the last declaration of compliance on 8 December 2016, freenet AG has complied with the recommendations of the German Corporate Governance Code (“Code”) in the version of 5 May 2015 (subject to the following differences), and will continue to comply with the recommendations of the Code in the version of 7 February 2017, unless otherwise stated by the company in the following.

1. The company has taken out D&O insurance for its board members. No retention agreement has been signed with Supervisory Board members because it is not evident that this would represent an advantage for the company. It is taken for granted that all Supervisory Board members carry out their duties responsibly. In order to treat all the Supervisory Board members equally, moreover, any retention would have to be set at a uniform level, even though the members’ personal financial backgrounds vary. A standard retention would therefore constitute different burdens for the individual Supervisory Board members. As their responsibilities are the same, this does not seem appropriate. (Code clause 3.8 (3)

2. The company has a strong commitment to transparent reporting. This also applies to the compensation of the Executive Board members, the separate components of which are disclosed and discussed individually in the compensation report. Nonetheless, the Executive Board and Supervisory Board have decided not to use the model tables in the compensation report to depict the Executive Board’s compensation. Although the service contracts with the Executive Board members provide for caps, there is a risk that the disclosure of maximum amounts for share-based compensation components creates an impression which is inconsistent with the actual assumptions for the performance of the share price. (Code clause 4.2.5 sentence 5 and 6)

3. The Supervisory Board considers the current Executive Board to be a success and is therefore striving for continuity on the Executive Board. In the opinion of the Supervisory Board, selection in accordance with the criteria for the composition of the Executive Board specified in Code clause 5.1.2 (1) is of subordinate significance. (Code clause 5.1.2 (1))

4. No age limit has been set for members of the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board. It is not evident why qualified individuals with relevant professional and other experience should not be considered as candidates solely on the grounds of their age. (Code clause 5.1.2 sentence 8 and 5.4.1 sentence 2)

5. The Supervisory Board does not specify any concrete targets for its composition, as defined in clause 5.4.1 (2) and 5.4.2 sentence 1. It therefore also does not draw up a competence profile for the entire body. It can therefore not follow the recommendations made in clause 5.4.1 (4). When proposing new members for election, the Supervisory Board has so far been guided solely by their suitability. The Supervisory Board is convinced that this has proven to be effective. It therefore sees no need to change the procedure. (Code clauses 5.4.1 (2), (4) and 5.4.2 sentence 1)

6. Clause 5.4.6 (2) of the Code recommends aligning performance-related pay for Supervisory Board members with the sustained performance of the company. The Supervisory Board’s variable compensation is set according to the dividend for the past financial year, in line with section 11 (5) of the company’s articles of association. This form of variable compensation has proven its worth in the past. Furthermore, the company’s dividend policy as communicated to financial markets, which is based on free cash flow, is aligned with the company’s sustained performance. Linking variable compensation to this dividend strategy therefore also serves the company’s sustained performance. For this reason, there is no intention of changing the Supervisory Board’s variable compensation. (Code clause 5.4.6 (2))
II. Relevant disclosures on corporate management practices
freenet AG has a uniform compliance system that is continuously expanded and enhanced. The freenet Group’s chief compliance officer (“CCO”) reports directly to the Executive Board. He helps the Executive Board to highlight the legal requirements that are relevant for freenet AG and to implement them accordingly within the freenet Group, as well as to adapt the compliance system to changing requirements. The CCO also reports regularly to the Supervisory Board’s audit committee. The CCO informs the Supervisory Board whenever risks arise which endanger the continued existence of the freenet Group.

The freenet Group is wholeheartedly committed to upholding the prevailing laws and statutes. For the freenet Group, compliance means that statutory provisions are adhered to, the Group’s own rules and in-house guidelines are observed and criminal acts are prevented. The company does everything it can to ensure that violations of compliance, such as fraud, corruption and anti-competitive practices, do not arise in the first place. As soon as misconduct and infringements of compliance become evident, these are brought to light and tackled decisively.

The freenet Group’s managers set a good example in upholding compliance and ensure that any significant steps taken within their own fields of responsibility are in accordance with the respective statutory provisions and our own values and rules.

The compliance organisation can be approached by any contact person for advice on individual issues.

The Compliance department has developed a whistleblower tool and implemented it within the freenet Group. It enables whistle-blowers to give tip-offs anonymously whenever infringements of compliance come to their attention.

All tip-offs are investigated promptly as part of a transparent and accountable process in which the interests of the whistle-blower, the persons affected and the company are taken into account.

The aim is to enable the company to take systematic and appropriate action immediately when compliance is violated and thereby to avert damage to the freenet Group. In order to ensure the proper, swift handling of tip-offs in accordance with the whistle-blower process, the freenet Group has set up a whistle-blower committee. Permanent members of the whistle-blower committee are the CCO as well as the responsible head of internal auditing and the head of fraud management. The whistle-blower committee is responsible for the operational implementation of the whistle-blower process.

A centralised fraud management unit has also been set up. In addition to its coordinating function for the individual specialist fraud departments in the freenet Group, this unit is responsible in particular for the introduction and improvement of effective preventive measures and processes for preventing damage to the freenet Group caused by fraud.

The significance of data protection has increased continuously in recent years. The freenet Group is aware of its special responsibility with regard to the handling of the personal data of our customers, suppliers, contractual partners and employees. We therefore consider that it is important for these data to be protected against unauthorised access. For this reason, we use modern security technologies and regularly draw the attention of our employees to this subject in order to continuously improve the overall security level and to meet the challenges posed by the increasing threats.
III. Working methods of the Executive Board and Supervisory Board
freenet AG’s Executive Board and Supervisory Board work together in a close and trusting manner in their management and supervision of the company.

The Executive Board, as the parent company’s management body, is obliged to serve the interests of the company and currently consists of three members. The Executive Board’s work is governed by its rules of procedure. The members of the Executive Board are jointly responsible for corporate management as a whole. In other respects, each Executive Board member is responsible for his own sphere of business. The Executive Board members work together in a spirit of cooperation and inform one another in an ongoing fashion about facts and developments in their respective spheres of business at regular Executive Board meetings. In addition, the Executive Board members attend regular meetings of the specialist departments. As part of a distribution-of-business plan, the Supervisory Board determines the individual Executive Board members’ areas of responsibility.

The Supervisory Board is convened at least twice in each calendar half-year. It generally makes its decisions at meetings requiring personal attendance, but also by way of telephone conferences or by written communications. The Supervisory Board regularly advises the Executive Board when the latter is making its decisions about the company’s management and also supervises its management activities. The Executive Board includes the Supervisory Board in all decisions of a fundamental nature relating to the company’s management and reports regularly about the business performance, the corporate planning, the strategic development and the situation of the company. The Supervisory Board conducts a detailed examination of all deviations of business performance from the plans and targets and discusses these with the Executive Board. It also conducts detailed checks on commercial transactions of significance for the company on the basis of Executive Board reports, takes counsel on such matters and makes decisions as and when required. Outside of the meetings, too, the Supervisory Board members were informed by the Executive Board about current business developments.
IV. Composition and working methods of committees
The Executive Board has not constituted any committees.

The Supervisory Board has constituted a steering committee and four other committees. These committees prepare the topics and resolutions of the Supervisory Board which are due to be discussed in the plenum and in some individual areas are authorised to make decisions in place of the plenum. The committees carry out their work in meetings requiring personal attendance. In exceptional cases, however, the meetings can also be conducted by telephone. The committees discuss the items on their agendas and make decisions concerning these if required. The committee chairpersons report on the subject matter of the committee meetings to the Supervisory Board’s plenum. With the exception of the Nomination Committee, all committees comprise equal numbers of shareholders’ representatives and employees’ representatives.

Steering committee

The steering committee discusses central themes and prepares Supervisory Board resolutions. It can take the place of the Supervisory Board, with the required approval of the Executive Board in accordance with the latter’s rules of procedure, in deciding on measures and transactions of the Executive Board, insofar as the matter in question cannot be deferred and it is not possible for the Supervisory Board to make an appropriate decision within the time available.

Members: Prof Dr Helmut Thoma (chairman since 1 June 2017), Thorsten Kraemer (since 1 June 2017), Gesine Thomas (since 1 June 2017), Knut Mackeprang

Members who stepped down in 2017: Dr Hartmut Schenk (chairman) until 1 June 2017, Birgit Geffke until 31 March 2017

Personnel committee

The personnel committee prepares the Supervisory Board’s personnel decisions. It submits to the Supervisory Board proposals for decisions on the Executive Board’s compensation, the compensation system and regular scrutiny of that system. The committee makes decisions in place of the Supervisory Board – but subject to mandatory responsibilities of the Supervisory Board – on Executive Board members’ business that is relevant for personnel.

Members: Prof Dr Helmut Thoma (chairman) (since 1 June 2017), Sabine Christiansen (since 1 June 2017) Claudia Anderleit, Knut Mackeprang (since 1 June 2017)

Members who stepped down in 2017: Dr Hartmut Schenk (chairman) until 1 June 2017, Birgit Geffke until 31 March 2017, Thorsten Kraemer until 1 June 2017

Audit committee

The audit committee concerns itself with the monitoring of the accounting process, the effectiveness of the internal control system, the risk management system and the internal auditing system, and financial statements auditing, in the latter case especially with regard to the choice of auditor and his independence and the additional services rendered by the auditor, the awarding of the audit engagement to the auditor, the determination of key audit matters and the fee agreement. It is also responsible for approving the permissible non-audit services to be rendered by the auditor. It also concerns itself with compliance-related issues.

Members: Robert Weidinger (Chairman), Marc Tüngler, Ronny Minak, Michael Stephan

Mediation committee

The mediation committee is constituted in accordance with section 27 (3) of the German Co-determination Act (MitbestG) so that it can perform the task described in section 31 (3) sentence 1 MitbestG.

Members: Prof Dr Helmut Thoma (chairman) (since 1 June 2017), Fränzi Kühne (since 1 June 2017), Gesine Thomas, Knut Mackeprang

Members who stepped down in 2017: Dr Hartmut Schenk (chairman) until 1 June 2017, Thorsten Kraemer until 1 June 2017

Nomination committee

The nomination committee has the task of suggesting suitable candidates to the Supervisory Board for proposal to the annual general meeting in the run-up to new elections.

Members: Prof Dr Helmut Thoma (chairman) (since 1 June 2017), Marc Tüngler, Sabine Christiansen

Member who stepped down in 2017: Dr Hartmut Schenk (Chairman) until 16 January 2017


The Supervisory Board and Executive Board have each defined targets to be achieved by 30 June 2017 for the percentage of women in the Executive Board and in the two management tiers below the Executive Board. These targets were attained as of 30 June 2017 as follows:

Target for 30 June 2017As of 30 June 2017
Executive Board0%0%
Management tier 1 (direct reports)25%40%
Management tier 2 (heads of department)27.5%33.3%

The Supervisory Board and Executive Board have each defined the following targets for the period until 31 December 2021 with regard to the percentage of women in the Executive Board and in the two management tiers below the Executive Board:

Target for 31 December 2021
Executive Board0%
Management tier 1 (direct reports)30%
Management tier 2 (heads of department)30%

In the period under review, the percentages of men and women on the Supervisory Board complied with the legal requirements regarding the minimum percentages.

The company has not adopted a diversity concept which defines the criteria for the composition of the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board with regard to aspects such as age, gender or education or career background.

With regard to its own composition, the Supervisory Board has complied with the legal requirements regarding gender diversity. It has so far always rejected the further recommendations of the German Corporate Governance Code regarding the composition of supervisory boards, and has explained the differences in its statements of compliance with the German Corporate Governance Code. In the case of proposed candidates for election to the Supervisory Board, the Supervisory Board is convinced that it should focus exclusively on the suitability of the candidates. In addition, there is no current requirement for considerations regarding the future composition of the Supervisory Board after the shareholders’ representatives in the Supervisory Board were re-elected in the annual general meeting 2017.

The Supervisory Board aims to achieve continuity with regard to the composition of the Executive Board, and wishes to avoid the possibility of uncertainty among the members of the Executive Board. Such uncertainty might arise if the Supervisory Board sets up a general diversity concept for the composition of the Executive Board without a specific reason. The Supervisory Board therefore does not consider that there is any requirement for a diversity concept at present, and wishes to adopt a wait-and-see attitude for the time being with regard to the specific developments, with reference to lack of experience with this new specification.
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