France Anti-corruption Guide 2022

1. Is your country a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention?

Yes.

2. Is your country a member of any other bilateral or multilateral conventions on anti-corruption?

Yes. France is a member of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and "the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)." Founded in 1989 by the Council of Europe, GRECO's objective is to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with the Council of Europe's anti-corruption standards through a dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure.

3. Are there local anti-corruption laws in your country focusing on corporations, not individuals? If yes, what sanctions can be imposed?

Yes. The so-called "Sapin II Law," enacted in 2016, was designed to strengthen the French anti-corruption arsenal and introduce new measures to prevent and penalize corruption (such as the creation of the French Anti-Corruption Agency, the obligation for large companies to avoid risks of corruption, etc.). Corporations can be condemned for acts of corruption under the French Criminal Code and are liable to a fine equal to five times the fine imposed on natural persons. If a corporation is found guilty of corruption and/or influence peddling, it can also be required to set up a compliance program under the control of the French Anti-Corruption Agency.

4. Can companies be held liable for acts of corruption under civil or administrative law?

Yes. Legal entities can incur civil and administrative liability. The French Anti-Corruption Agency can impose penalties on companies that do not comply with their obligation to set up a compliance program. The penalties can be as follows:

  • the injunction to comply with legal obligations within a maximum period of 3 years; and/or
  • a fine of up to one million euros for legal entities; and/or
  • the publication, distribution, and display, in whole or in part, of the decision ordering an injunction or a fine at the expense of the natural person or legal entity sanctioned.

6. Is corruption of individuals punishable?

Yes. Section 433-1 et seq. of the French Criminal Code punishes active and passive bribery and/or influence peddling towards a person holding public authority, entrusted with a public service mission, or having a public elective mandate, with a prison sentence of up to 10 years and fine of up to EUR 1 million.

Section 445-3 et. seq. of the French Criminal Code punishes active and passive bribery in the private sector, with a prison sentence of up to 5 years and fine of up to EUR 500,000..

Section 435-3 et. seq. of the French Criminal Code punishes active and passive bribery and influence peddling in an international framework, with a prison sentence of up to 10 years and fine of up to EUR 1 million.

7. Are facilitation payments allowed?

No. There is no exemption for facilitation payments under French law.

8. Is there a legal regulation/maximum limit for accepting or giving gifts, invitations, etc.?

There is no law governing the issue of gifts within the public service sector. However, in some areas, the law prohibits the receipt of any gift, e.g., the health sector or the national police. Section L.1453-3 of the French Public Health Code prohibits health professionals from accepting benefits in cash or in kind from persons manufacturing or marketing health products or services.

9. Are bribes to foreign government officials prohibited?

Yes.

10. Does your legislation have any extraterritorial reach?

Yes. Since adopting the Sapin 2 Law in 2016, the French legislation expanded the extraterritoriality of corruption and influence peddling prosecutions under certain conditions.

12. Is it possible to confiscate assets from the company?

Yes.

13. Does your legislation rely on deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements or any other type of non-trial resolution for corruption?

Yes. The Sapin 2 Law creates a procedure allowing the public prosecutor to conclude a legal agreement named "Convention judiciaire d'intérêt public" (a deferred prosecution agreement) with a company. This alternative measure to prosecution applies to companies prosecuted for misconduct for corruption, influence peddling, tax evasion, environmental crimes, and all related fraud.

14. Can a company be liable for the acts of its intermediaries or third parties?

Yes. A company can be liable for acts of its intermediaries and must be vigilant about the practices of these intermediaries and ensure their integrity.

15. Can a parent company be liable for the acts of its subsidiaries?

Yes, under certain conditions. If it is demonstrated that the parent company played an active role in the acts of corruption, it can also be liable for the actions of its subsidiaries. However, the parent company benefits from a legal personality distinct from its subsidiaries and cannot be held liable if no act of corruption can be attributed to it.

16. Are there any affirmative defenses or exceptions for those accused of corruption acts?

No.

17. Does your jurisdiction require domestic entities to implement anti-corruption internal programs?

Yes. Since adopting the Sapin 2 Law, companies that exceed the EUR 100 million in turnover and 500 employees thresholds must implement a compliance program that the French Anti-Corruption Agency can control.

However, companies that do not exceed the thresholds are encouraged to implement a compliance program.

18. Is having a compliance program a defense or mitigating factor, while reviewing sanctions?

Yes. A compliance program can mitigate fines and allow the company to negotiate a lower fine within the framework of a "Convention judiciaire d'intérêt public" (cf. Q.13 above).

19. Could the cooperation with the authorities or an internal investigation be a defense or mitigating factor?

Yes. Cooperation with the authorities or an internal investigation can mitigate the fine or exclude the company's criminal liability.

20. Is there any publicly available guideline issued by the authorities in charge of enforcing anti-corruption laws? For example, manuals on compliance programs, leniency agreements, etc. If so, please provide the link.

Yes. The French Anti-Corruption agency regularly publishes guidelines giving recommendations on how to implement a comprehensive compliance program. These manuals are in French, and some are in English.

Contributors

Soulier Avocats
Claire Filliatre, c.filliatre@soulier-avocats.com
Jean-Luc Soulier, jl.soulier@soulier-avocats.com