On July 18, 2023, the French Anticorruption Agency ("FAA") published its 2022 annual activity report. The report detailed key figures related to the inspections carried out by the agency, as well as the lessons to be learned. The report also noted a marked increase in whistleblower reports received during the year.
2022: Key Data
In 2022, the FAA maintained its inspection and advisory activity at a rate similar to that of previous years.
The FAA carried out 36 "initiative inspections" (i.e., inspections initiated by the FAA Director):
- Eighteen inspections of economic players, including 10 French subsidiaries of foreign groups. Twelve are initial inspections of companies in sectors particularly exposed to the risk of corruption, and six are so-called "warning follow-up" inspections of companies already inspected in previous years.
- Eighteen inspections of public entities.
In addition, the FAA conducted three "execution inspections" (i.e., inspections arising from judicial measures requiring that the entities involved implement anticorruption compliance programs). These inspections consisted of:
- One examination prior to the establishment of a Convention Judiciaire d'Intérêt Public ("CJIP," the French equivalent of a U.S. deferred prosecution agreement), at the request of the national financial prosecutor's office; and
- Two compliance program checks of entities subject to a CJIP.
The FAA has changed its methods relating to its inspection of private and public entities:
- The FAA's inspections now take place in two successive phases: The first phase aims to verify the existence, quality, and effectiveness of the anticorruption system in light of the risk environment the entity faces, while the second (optional) phase aims to deepen the analysis through questionnaires and additional interviews.
- Upon issuing the FAA's interim inspection report to the inspected entity, the FAA Director may ask the entity to provide a response to the interim report containing an action plan specifying the terms and schedule of the actions envisaged.
- Upon the FAA's receipt of the entity's response, the date of the FAA's findings will be updated to the date of the response.
Lessons Learned from Inspections
In various respects, the FAA highlighted the positive results of the CJIPs finalized since 2017:
- The compliance programs implemented in connection with the CJIPs reaffirm France's judicial sovereignty, particularly in the context of international criminal investigations coordinated by the FAA, and indicate social acceptance of the legal outcomes.
- In the majority of cases, the public prosecutor's offices follow the recommendations of the FAA as to the scope and duration of the CJIPs.
- Four of the CJIPs finalized since 2017 have been closed and have resulted in the issuance of a notice of termination of public action, indicating the effectiveness of these CJIPs.
A Clear Increase in Reports Received
Since 2022, the FAA has been the external authority for collecting reports on criminal offenses from any whistleblower who does not wish to use the employer's internal whistleblowing system. The FAA’s 2022 annual activity report included statistics and observations relating to the agency’s whistleblower program, including the following:
- The number of reports received in 2022 increased by 40% in comparison to 2021.
- 49% of the 2022 reports were anonymous.
- The facts brought to the attention of the agency allow it to better identify the sectors and activities at risk.
- 37% of the reports received were forwarded to the competent services or authorities, including 33 to the public prosecutor's offices.
Appointment of New Director
Finally, by decree of July 26, 2023, Isabelle Jégouzo was appointed Director of the FAA. A magistrate with solid expertise in international judicial cooperation, Jégouzo has held several interministerial functions, including as General Secretariat for European Affairs at the Ministry of Justice and several roles at the European Anti-Fraud Office.