Regulatory Alert - La question des emprunts dits « toxiques » arrive …enfin… devant la Cour de cassation

by Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
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Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

C’est un arrêt dont on aurait sans doute voulu disposer il y a quelques années de cela, lorsque le contentieux des emprunts dits (le plus souvent par les emprunteurs) « toxiques » accordés à des collectivités territoriales faisait rage devant les juridictions du fond.
 
Le litige concernait ici la commune de Saint-Leu-La-Forêt, qui avait souscrit auprès de Dexia deux financements destinés à la restructuration de deux prêts souscrits précédemment. Leur particularité ? La commune était exposée, pour chacun des deux prêts, à un taux d’intérêt indexé sur l’évolution du cours de l’euro en franc suisse et donc potentiellement « illimité », pendant la majeure partie du contrat. Il faut faire ici un aparté pour noter que, décidément, les crédits octroyés en devises sont sous le feu des projecteurs (CJUE, 20 septembre 2017, Andriciuc, aff. C-186/16 ; CA Paris, Ch. 5-6, 6 oct. 2017, n°16/03076).
 
Estimant avoir été exposée à des risques importants en raison de la nature « spéculative » de ces contrats, la commune a assigné Dexia en annulation des deux contrats et en paiement de dommages-intérêts. Si le tribunal de grande instance de Nanterre lui a donné gain de cause, la cour de Versailles, sur appel de la banque, a infirmé le jugement. En cassation, la chambre commerciale approuve le raisonnement suivi par la juridiction d’appel et rejette le pourvoi de la commune.
 
Que retenir de cette décision ?
 
En premier lieu, qu'une commune, personne morale de droit public exerçant « une partie de la puissance publique », ne peut ni saisir la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme, ni invoquer utilement devant les juridictions nationales les stipulations de cette Convention ou de son premier Protocole additionnel pour remettre en cause l’application à la cause de la loi n° 2014-844 du 29 juillet 2014 relative à la sécurisation des contrats de prêts structurés souscrits par les personnes morales de droit public.
 
En second lieu, et c’est probablement l'essentiel, que le caractère « spéculatif » d’une opération ne peut résulter de la seule exposition de la collectivité territoriale à des risques illimités, le critère de la spéculation, résidant, non pas dans l’aléa, bien réel, de l’opération, mais dans la volonté de s’enrichir. L’arrêt de la cour de Versailles ayant retenu que la commune n'avait pas cherché à s'enrichir mais seulement à refinancer des investissements réalisés dans l'intérêt général à des conditions de taux d'intérêt les plus avantageuses possibles, il était exempt de toute critique. C’est ainsi la finalité de l’opération qui est essentielle.
 
Enfin, mais ce n’est pas nouveau, que le caractère averti d'un emprunteur ne se présume pas et doit résulter d'une analyse concrète, au jour de la conclusion du prêt litigieux. Se fondant en l’occurrence sur un faisceau d’indices très concrets (taille de la commune, pratique antérieure d’opérations de crédit dont certaines à taux variable, montant total des emprunts de la commune, compétences du maire « diplômé de sciences de gestion et trésorier de l’Association des maires d’Île-de-France », présence d’une commission des finances de dix membres, politique active de gestion de la dette...), la cour d’appel a souverainement caractérisé le caractère averti de la commune. 
 
C’est le paradoxe du temps judiciaire que de voir la Cour de cassation se prononcer sur un contentieux – majoritairement issu du retournement de la courbe des taux et des problématiques affectant le franc suisse – qui est déjà quasiment éteint. Son intérêt reste toutefois important, car la Cour de cassation écarte aussi un argument de plus en plus souvent soulevé, y compris dans des opérations de swap ayant mal évolué, en affirmant que ces mécanismes n’incorporent pas d’options, la Cour retenant la définition juridique de l’option, qui implique un choix à faire au moment de son exercice, et non sa définition financière.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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