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French anti-corruption

Passage of French anti-corruption bill disappoints some observers

Passage of French anti-corruption bill disappoints some observers

It was hoped that the proposed ‘Sapin II Bill’ would become a game-changing piece of legislation in France’s fight against corruption, aligning the country’s legislative approach with that of transnational laws such as the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the United Kingdom Bribery Act. Unfortunately, political disagreements on certain articles and provisions have delayed enactment of the bill, which had originally been earmarked for September this year.

The French Senate is not in favour of the proposed scope of power of the new national anti-corruption agency as described in the original draft. The new agency, which will replace the Service Central de Repression de la Corruption, was originally intended to have the capacity to prosecute and impose penalties on companies found guilty of corruption. However, in a revised document from the Senate, the agency will only be able to conduct investigations on suspected corrupt entities and then submit its findings to the relevant authorities.

The main role of the new agency will be to help detect and prevent acts of bribery and corruption, and ensure that public and private companies are working towards implementing much-needed anticorruption compliance programmes.

Another section of the Bill removed by the Senate involves the legal obligation of French organisations, and their subsidiaries, to include due diligence and risk assessment procedures for third party suppliers and potential contractors in their compliance programmes.

Proponents of the Bill in the National Assembly are in talks to try and place these deleted items back in the draft, and this is expected to prolong the process before the bill is finally signed into law. However, despite the setbacks, many remain positive that the ‘Sapin II Bill’ is a key step in demonstrating France’s commitment to battling corruption.

For companies based in the country or that have dealings with French-based vendors, it is recommended that they be proactive and begin implementing a robust anti-corruption compliance programme. Effective programmes must include:

  • a code of conduct
  • an internal reporting system such as a whistleblower hotline
  • conducting due diligence on suppliers, partners and intermediaries
  • carrying out internal and external audits
  • providing training
  • a disciplinary policy.