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Thursday
Oct232014

France enforcement score: 0 for 24

Today the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery issued its Statement on France’s Implementation of its Anti-Bribery Convention. While acknowledging some progress, it expresses “serious concerns for France’s limited efforts to comply with the OECD Convention….and strongly encourages France to pursue the reforms which were previously announced and remain necessary.”

The Statement followed on from a critical Phase 3 Monitoring Report in October 2012 which contained no less than 33 “concrete” recommendations.

The criticism in the 2012 Report was so severe that it elicited assurances of decisive change from the French authorities. So far those assurances have given rise to the establishment of a financial prosecutor, the ending of instructions from the Ministry of Justice to prosecutors; extended protection for whistleblowers, increased locus for NGOs in civil corruption claims and increased sanctions for corruption offenses.

But the Statement notes that a significant number of the 33 recommendations remain unaddressed:

However, reforms which would have given public prosecutors the necessary statutory guarantees to exercise their functions without undue political influence which is required for the proper administration of justice, did not materialize. Furthermore, no reform in this respect is currently under consideration. Other anticipated amendments that are not envisaged include, reforms to ensure that the law on defense secrecy and the so-called « blocking statute » do not create an obstacle to investigations and prosecutions in foreign bribery cases. In addition, there are still no amendments to the statute of limitations and no criminalization of trading in influence directed towards a foreign public official.

The Statement points out that although 24 new corruption cases were opened since 2012, no French company had been convicted of a foreign bribery offense, despite international convictions of some French companies. It also expresses concern about the French authorities’ “lack of proactivity” in international bribery cases involving French companies.

That the OECD’s Phase 3 Working Group should conclude that the country providing its own headquarters is “insufficiently in compliance with the Convention” is unfortunate.

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Alistair Craig, a commercial barrister practicing in London, is a frequent contributor to the FCPA Blog.