French Law Commission recommends revamp of anti-corruption laws

Out-Law News | 28 Jul 2021 | 9:44 am | 1 min. read

France could enhance whistle-blower protection and shift compliance vetting powers away from the country’s anti-corruption agency if recommendations from the French Law Commission are accepted.

The Law Commission produced a report for the French National Assembly looking at the impact of the 2016 anti-corruption law known as Sapin 2, making several recommendations aimed at strengthening the legislation and improving safeguards.

The commission recommended that responsibility for vetting compliance programmes should be moved from the anti-corruption agency (Agence Française Anti Corruption, or AFA) to transparency body HATVP (Haute Autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique which would be renamed Haute Autorité pour la Probité (Authority for Probity). This was because HATVP is independent from the executive and has more budgetary and functional autonomy than the AFA.

The report examined the impact of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) and made recommendations aimed at giving companies more certainty about entering into a DPA. It suggested giving guarantees to companies that if they cooperate with the authorities they would be eligible for a DPA, and establishing a grid to help companies assess the level of any fine that would form part of the DPA.

The commission suggested adapting an existing tool for individuals known as a CRPC (Comparution sur reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité) for corruption cases. A CRPC is similar to a DPA and the suggestion is that an individual would enter into the agreement in parallel with a DPA agreed between the authorities and the company the individual works for. However, unlike a DPA, the CRPC recognises criminal liability in the case.

Although Sapin II created the status of whistle-blower, it lacks adequate protection for those blowing the whistle on corruption. Accordingly, the commission has proposed that whistle-blowers should be able to go directly to the authorities to raise an issue without having to alert their companies beforehand.

The commission suggested a formal whistleblower status which could be used before administrative and judicial authorities, or granted by a judge during court proceedings; the creation of a fund to help whistle-blowers financially; and the creation of a civil penalty to deter proceedings brought against any whistle-blower.

The recommendations would need to be implemented through new legislation and no timeframe has yet been set out.