In December 2016, France adopted a new anti-corruption law known as Sapin II. France equipped its prosecutorial authorities with a new instrument, the convention judiciaire d’intérêt public (CJIP), directly inspired by U.S.-style deferred prosecution agreements. CJIPs suspend the prosecution of companies in exchange for their cooperation with law enforcement authorities, the payment of a fine and the implementation of remedial measures. The number of CJIPs concluded thus far remains relatively low, however.
Cooperating with law enforcement authorities rather than defending one’s case every step of the way is not an obvious decision to make from a French perspective. The reputational impact of an indictment is considered less damaging in France than it is in the U.S. There is also a point of comparative criminal law. French prosecutors have the burden of proving that someone vested with the power to represent the company committed a crime on behalf of the company. Although the French courts have displayed a tendency to construe this article more and more broadly over recent years, there are still many cases where misconduct committed by employees will not trigger criminal liability for the company.
It remains to be seen whether CJIPs will become the usual way of resolving corporate criminal matters in France in the future. But in the meantime, the practice certainly appears to be developing steadily and becoming more and more consistent with the approach and methodology of other law enforcement authorities around the world.