New Compliance Regulations for France and Italy Demonstrate the Growing Convergence of Anti-Corruption and Whistleblowing Standards in Europe

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A piece of major compliance legislation has just been passed in Europe: the long-awaited French anti-corruption and whistleblower protection law, Sapin II, which brings French anti-corruption standards in line with those of the UK and the U.S. At the same time, in Italy, an updated piece of whistleblowing legislation for both the public and private sectors is under discussion in the Italian Parliament in the form of Bill proposal no. 2208. Both laws will have legal implications for your firm if you do business in France or Italy.

Our legal brief, developed in partnership with Baker & McKenzie, outlines these new laws and describes what you need to do to adopt anti-corruption best practices and stay ahead of the new international regulations.

Understanding the nuances of Anti-bribery and Corruption programmes in France and Italy

The aim is to bring about greater global transparency, which in the long run will make your job easier.

Ethics and compliance professionals across the EU and globally need to navigate a complex maze of different international laws and regulations, as well as inherent cultural differences across countries. Whilst these laws include additional country-specific regulations for compliance teams to come to terms with, the good news is that they are part of a growing convergence in European anti-bribery, anti-corruption and whistleblower protection standards. The aim is to bring about greater global transparency, which in the long run will make your job easier.

Both laws also focus on increasing protection for whistleblowers and reinforcing internal control obligations on organisations. In France, Sapin II will create a national regulatory body to detect and prevent corruption. Importantly, it will have investigative powers. It also provides a provision for whistleblowers to be formally recognised. The new whistleblowing proposals in Italy are significant because they will extend the current protection afforded to a section of whistleblowers in the public sector to all employees across both the public and private sectors.

How are compliance teams in France and Italy responding to this movement for greater regulation?

In Italy, NAVEX Global recently hosted an Ethics and Compliance Roundtable where we surveyed the audience of Senior Compliance Officers and CCOs from multi-national, large and medium-sized businesses. We found the number one compliance risk for our delegates was, “protecting against bribery & corruption”, demonstrating how important the new laws will be for compliance teams as they strive to minimise these challenges.

The prevalence of organisations using external whistleblowing services is a sign that anti-corruption efforts in Italy are already moving in the right direction.

Furthermore, when asked if their organisation uses any software tools or services to support their ethics and compliance programme, the top response was, “we use external whistleblowing hotline services”. The whistleblowing process is key to preventing employee misconduct and unethical behaviour from developing into more serious compliance or corruption issues in the future. Often, if not identified early on, corruption and other unethical practices can seriously damage the reputation of a business. The prevalence of organisations using external whistleblowing services is a sign that anti-corruption efforts in Italy are already moving in the right direction.

What should you do if your firm is affected by the Sapin II bill in France and whistleblowing protection proposals in Italy?

Staying up-to-date and complying with regulations from multiple jurisdictions whilst instilling a strong cultural ethos across all geographies are some of the key challenges we found from our 2016 EMEA Policy Management Benchmark Report. However, there are some simple initial steps you can take if you are affected by these new laws, beginning with an assessment of how they will affect your company specifically. This should include measuring your exposure to potential corruption risks in France and Italy and the capacity for your company’s compliance resources to handle those risks, as well as to protect whistleblowers.

Our legal brief prepared in partnership with Baker & McKenzie outlines the new laws in more detail and describes methods to ensure you stay ahead of the curve. These include some of the essential components of creating an effective E&C programme in these regions, key local challenges, and steps you can take to ensure your whistleblowing procedures support you, not only from a regulatory perspective, but also from an ethical employee behaviour perspective.


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