French Ministry of Finance outlines contemplated bill aiming at improving transparency

On 22 July 2015, the French Ministry of Finance, Michel Sapin, announced to the Cabinet (Conseil des ministres) that a new bill "for the transparency of the economy" is expected to be finalised this autumn and should be presented to the French National Assembly for debate at the start of 2016.

According to the Ministry of Finance, although the bill is not completed yet, it will be structured around the five following elements:

  • creation of a national agency to combat corruption;
  • better protection of whistleblowers;
  • creation of a national lobbyists register;
  • fight against tax optimisation by large companies;
  • strengthening of anti-money laundering regulation.

This skeleton outline leaves open many questions as to the scope, nature and content of the contemplated regulation.

This is the case, in particular, regarding the powers of the contemplated agency to combat corruption: questions as to whether it would be (i) in charge of monitoring the companies' compliance with anti-corruption regulations, (ii) vested with investigative powers, (iii) entitled to impose fines and/or (iv) in charge of ensuring better protection for whistleblower, remain unclear at this stage.

The announcement of the creation of this agency may be a way for the French government to demonstrate its willingness to regain control of anti-corruption enforcement, following the US authorities imposition – albeit through settlement agreements – of substantial fines and independent compliance monitors on large French companies.

The French Ministry's announcement is also made in the context of the severe criticism voiced against France by the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention monitoring body for its poor enforcement of anti-corruption regulations, in particular regarding the corruption of foreign public officials.

It is likely that when submitted to the National Assembly (and later to the Senate), the bill will be much debated.

France enacts new limits to the amount of cash that can be paid by professionals to settle liabilities

In order to prevent money laundering and achieve better transparency in the economy, the French government has enacted a decree on 24 June 2015 (Decree n°2015-741) lowering the threshold above which payment in cash is prohibited.

As of 1 September 2015 (date of entry into force of the Decree), any payment in cash exceeding €1,000 is prohibited, except for, inter alia:

  • payments made between individuals in a non-professional context;
  • payments which are not made for the purpose of a business activity, by persons whose tax residence is not located in France (for such payments the threshold is set at €15,000);
  • payments made by persons who do not have any means of payment other than cash;
  • payments of the State's and other public person's expenses.

Prior to the entry into force of the decree, the threshold was set at €3,000 (subject to the same exceptions).