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“It is time for France to relaunch its anti-corruption policy”

THEhe France has long been absent subscribers in the fight against corruption in international economic life, bribes being even tax deductible there until about twenty years ago. Under pressure from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and American lawsuits against several French industrial flagships, the so-called Sapin 2 law of December 9, 2016 has changed the situation, by imposing on companies of a certain size the implementation of a demanding compliance system, by creating a French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) with control missions and by opening up to legal persons and prosecutors the possibility of a transactional resolution of corruption cases in the form of a judicial convention of public interest (CJIP), a method which has proved its effectiveness in the United States.

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The entry into force of the law in June 2017 gave real impetus to the fight against corruption in business life, both within companies, with the rise of compliance systems. [le respect des normes], than on the side of the public authorities, with the entry on the scene of the AFA at the national level and that of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) among the main players in the fight against corruption at the international level. Five years later, while the OECD is looking again at French performance in this area, the results are mixed. As the recent parliamentary mission to assess the Sapin 2 law indicated, the results have stagnated and France is looking for a new lease of life in its anti-corruption policy.

Lack of credibility

The diagnosis is particularly severe in the public sphere, also covered by the Sapin 2 law with insufficient resources, and it does not spare the fight against corruption in international business life. This is partly due to the institutional mechanism put in place by the Sapin 2 law.

Unlike the American and British FCPA models [loi fédérale américaine de 1977 pour lutter contre la corruption d’agents publics à l’étranger] and the UK Bribery Act [loi britannique de 2010 relative à la répression et la prévention de la corruption], the French scheme is indeed based first of all on the obligation imposed on companies of a certain size to set up an operational mechanism for preventing and detecting corruption within them. Given the delay experienced by French economic players in this area, this choice was probably essential. Likewise, the AFA, a state agency dependent on the ministries of the economy and justice, saw itself invested, with too modest means, with a dual mission of advice and control – two functions difficult to reconcile – alongside the PNF and other prosecution services.

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