English Court of Appeal requires French defendants to comply with disclosure orders despite the French “blocking statute”

The existence in several countries of “blocking statutes”, which prohibit the provision of economic information to foreign authorities or courts (or require prior authorization to be obtained before doing so), present a challenge to those managing international litigation and multijurisdictional inquiries. Issues relating to blocking statutes have emerged in an increasing number of international proceedings involving investigative measures, especially in cartels and white collar cases and in actions relating to private damages. A recent Court of Appeal judgment has provided valuable insight to companies that are potentially exposed to such proceedings. The Court imposed that the defendants, most of which were French companies, comply with the order to provide documents, stating that the “French blocking statute” could not be invoked in defense. However an application to the Supreme Court of England & Wales for permission to appeal this decision is pending, and therefore this may not be the end of the story.

L’existence, dans plusieurs pays, de «lois de blocage» interdisant la communication d’informations économiques ou commerciales à des autorités ou des juridictions étrangères, représente un enjeu pour toutes les entreprises confrontées à des litiges internationaux ou à des enquêtes ouvertes dans plusieurs juridictions. Les problématiques soulevées par les lois de blocage apparaissent dans un nombre croissant de procédures internationales, particulièrement en matière d’antitrust, de droit pénal des affaires ou dans des demandes en dommages et intérêts. Un arrêt récent de Cour d’Appel au Royaume Uni apporte un éclairage intéressant sur les obligations qui s’imposent aux entreprises exposées à de telles procédures. La cour a écarté l’application de la loi de blocage française et décidé que les défendeurs, qui étaient essentiellement des entreprises hexagonales, devaient se conformer aux injonctions de produire des documents. Cette décision a cependant fait l’objet d’un pourvoi.

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