Is the justice system changing in France? Earlier this month, new laws were voted earlier for companies to negotiate and agree on settlements, in a very similar fashion to the U.S system.
From now on, French companies will be allowed to conduct themselves private investigations. Therefore, hire investigators in order to fight corruption. France has been infamous for its very slow justice system and administration, as it relies on a subsidized service.
So, will this private switch benefit to the French populaiton? There is no clear answer yet. However, six settlements have been made, totaling $1.6 billion – including one involving Société Générale.
New laws to reinforce equity
Foreign investors were hoping for years for France to change its regulations on corporations. Business-driven and former banker French president Emmanuel Macron seems to have answered their request.
From now on, companies will be able to directly go to a private investigator instead of waiting for a public trial.
As the Wall Street Journal laid out, “French authorities now say corporations that discover potential violations should cooperate by conducting internal investigations and by sharing results with investigators if they want to be eligible for a settlement”.
The 18-page long document expanding the new anticorruption law also highlighted that “investigators will consider favorably companies that self-disclose potential wrongdoing”.
Read on Alvexo: “The Rise of Dirty Money in Europe”
Foreign investors like the idea
One of the most popular features of the law was the possibility of settlements between two companies – which is not something doable at the moment in France. According to Kevin Abikoff, a defense lawyer working for the New York-based law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP. “It was really a fight to the death at every turn”, he shared to the Wall Street Journal.
Moreover, French authorities have publicly encouraged private organizations to do so, in order to shorten the waiting list at courts. As the justice system is relying only on decreasing public funds, it has been undergoing an unprecedented crisis for the past year.
French lawyers throw in the air legal codes as they attend a demonstration as part of a national profession-wide strike against planned justice reform law in Marseille, France. pic.twitter.com/fR7wDRD8SZ
— RobertRobi (@Robertdreco) December 13, 2018
Foreign investors who are aware of the situation, felt relieved. As an analyst summed it up in the Wall Street Journal: “I can’t overemphasize how much of a sea change that is from where things were previously”.
De Rugy’s bad publicity
This could have been great publicity for France to attract even more foreign investments. However, one of Macron’s minister has been accused of corruption himself a few weeks ago.
This announcement happened a few days after French investigative media Mediapart leaked a document reporting that the French energy and environment François de Rugy was using public funds to live a lavish life and spent public funds to renovate his main residence, go to Paris most prestigious restaurants and other luxurious leisures.
#Corruption in France?
🇫🇷 Minister of Energy and Ecology François de Rugy is the latest French politician to find himself embroiled in a corruption scandal.@SophieTheGorman recounts how the minister and his wife are “living like royals on public funds”https://t.co/I4zb0R8KFf
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) July 12, 2019
— FRANCE 24 – Breaking (@BreakingF24) July 16, 2019
This scandal forced the minister to resign as well as doing a public announcement on TV saying that he “never paid more than €30 for a bottle of wine”, avoids champagne, “as it gives me a headache” and doesn’t eat lobster because he has a shellfish allergy.
Yesterday, Elisabeth Borne was officially replacing François de Rugy, while this vaudeville-like story might hinder France’s credibility in its new attempt to fight corruption.