Compliance in Germany and France

Is France becoming more mature in introducing compliance management system in companies, e.g. by adopting Sapin II?

Compliance in Germany and France

You underlined that there is a discrepancy between France and Germany in terms of compliance maturity. German companies had already implemented compliance systems before their French counterparts and consequently had stronger acceptance of and experience with compliance. What is the current situation? Is France becoming more mature in introducing compliance management system in companies?

Bénédicte: There is probably a “longer” compliance maturity in Germany, but it is not the core element. If there isn’t a clear legal obligation to enforce a compliance management system, French companies won’t anticipate and implement compliance proactively. It is surely a corporate cultural difference between France and Germany. Today, the situation has changed as there are plenty of new obligations in France, and are quite dispersed in various legal international, European and local standards. These include, for instance, the American FCPA (1977) and the UK Bribery Act (2010) with its anticorruption exterritoriality effect, the recent EU data protection regulation (2016), and the new French anticorruption law Sapin II (2016). I have to admit that the companies for which I implemented a compliance program were no longer really typically French, but were rather coming from international groups with a corporate dependency in Germany or in other strongly compliance-oriented countries such as the USA, the UK, etc.

Is there another triggering factor explaining why French companies are introducing more and more compliance in their governance and organisation?

Bénédicte: Yes, sure. Ad hoc internal incidents remain an important triggering factor; there are also compliance external scandals such the 2014 precedent of BNP Paribas with a nine-billion-dollar penalty. Last but not last least: on-site investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) frightens French companies as it means data requisition, an audit of all processes, financial costs, bad publicity in the press and mandatory remediation measures.