France updates

Arbitration & ADR

Contributed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Surviving COVID-19: arbitrations involving insolvent companies
  • France
  • 01 April 2021

Although the COVID-19 pandemic's full impact on the world economy remains unclear, a global surge in insolvency is expected in 2021 and 2022. A party's insolvency can affect pending and future arbitrations, which will generally depend on whether the insolvency occurs before, during or after the arbitration. However, early comprehension of certain basic factors might mitigate future risks ensuing from a counterparty's insolvency.

Parties to set-aside proceedings can rely on new arguments that they failed to raise before arbitral tribunal
  • France
  • 18 March 2021

The Court of Cassation recently issued its decision in the ongoing Schooner saga, agreeing with the applicants that the Court of Appeal violated the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) by preventing them from raising jurisdictional arguments in annulment proceedings. This appears to be the first time that the Court of Cassation has explicitly held that Article 1466 of the CCP does not prevent parties from raising new jurisdictional arguments at the annulment stage.

Seeking stay or amendment of enforcement of international awards: evolution of courts' approach
  • France
  • 04 February 2021

Under Article 1526 of the Code of Civil Procedure, if an award's enforcement is likely to severely harm the rights of one of the parties, such enforcement may be stayed or amended. This article clarifies the conditions which must be met for Article 1526 to apply and sets out the evolution of the courts' interpretation of the notion of severe harm to the rights of one of the parties.

Arbitration proceedings during COVID-19 crisis: helpful tips and new developments
  • France
  • 29 October 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted the performance of contracts. Although the Paris Commercial Court has ruled the pandemic to be a force majeure event in a commercial contract, this characterisation may not be retained in all situations. This article provides helpful tips to keep in mind when analysing a contractual situation, in light of French law specificities that might be unknown to foreign companies or counsel involved in arbitration proceedings to which French law applies.

Does Article 1466 of the Code of Civil Procedure include 'estoppel'?
  • France
  • 14 May 2020

The First Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation recently overruled a Paris Court of Appeal decision and determined that there was no basis for the argument that Antrix Corporation Ltd had not made certain procedural objections during arbitration and therefore could not raise them in enforcement proceedings. The decision raises interesting questions about the nature of the 'waiver' contemplated in the Code of Civil Procedure.


Aviation

Contributed by Odi-se Avocats
Court uses foreign-language versions of EU regulation to provide interpretation of compensation provision
  • France
  • 24 March 2021

The Court of Cassation recently had, for the first time, the opportunity to provide its interpretation of Article 3(3) of EC Regulation 261/2004. It confirmed that lump-sum compensation for flight cancellations or delays may not be awarded to passengers who are travelling at a reduced fare that is not directly or indirectly available to the public or free of charge. To support its interpretation, the court used foreign-language translations of the regulation.

Stop sending process servers to French manufacturers!
  • France
  • 03 February 2021

Airlines, lenders and lessors often send process servers to French aircraft manufacturers to ensure that assignments and transfers are enforceable against the manufacturer – an approach which is based on an old provision of the Civil Code. However, the position has been clear since the code was amended in 2016: assignments of rights no longer require notification to be delivered to a debtor by means of a process server.

French Aircraft Registry closed for relocation from Paris to Athis-Mons
  • France
  • 11 November 2020

The French Aircraft Registry, previously located in Paris, recently moved to Athis-Mons, approximately 20km south of Paris. Due to this relocation, the registry has been closed from 9 November 2020 until 13 November 2020 (however, the registry may be in a position to answer to emails as of 12 November 2020). Applicants to the registry that wish to register aircraft, and any related leases and mortgages, will have to use new registration forms which will refer to the registry's new location.

French Aircraft Registry: mortgagees must now elect domicile in Evry
  • France
  • 22 January 2020

The French Civil Aviation Authority's Registration Office recently moved from Paris to Athis-Mons. As a result, aircraft mortgage beneficiaries must elect domicile in the jurisdiction of the Evry Tribunal Judiciaire. This will not prove too difficult for French banks, which may elect domicile at a branch in the Court of Evry's territorial jurisdiction; however, foreign lenders and non-banking mortgagees will have to find someone (eg, a notary) who will accept such election of domicile on their behalf.

Manufacturers' liability in wake of AirAsia crash
  • France
  • 01 May 2019

The Court of Cassation recently rendered a decision concerning an AirAsia Airbus A320 which crashed in the Java Sea in December 2014, killing all crew and passengers on board. Notably, this decision reaffirms that, under French law, a manufacturer's liability cannot be limited or excluded on the grounds that another party or some other cause contributed to the damage if the product was defective and caused the damage.


Banking & Financial Services

Challenge of drafting first-demand guarantees
Odi-se Avocats
  • France
  • 06 December 2019

The Court of Cassation recently clarified its position on first-demand guarantees. Considering the significant consequences for the beneficiary of a guarantee (depending on whether it is characterised as a first-demand guarantee or suretyship), the court's reasoning should be looked at carefully by any drafter of a first-demand guarantee.

Preparations for no-deal Brexit: continued application of market master agreements
  • France
  • 29 May 2019

The government recently adopted Ministerial Order 2019-75, which aims to ensure that International Swap Derivatives Association-type master agreements on financial services continue to be used. To enable EU clients to pursue their existing contractual relationships after a no-deal Brexit, the order offers a simplified method of replicating a master agreement with an EU entity that belongs to the same group of companies as the UK financial institution with which that client had an existing contractual relationship.


Corporate & Commercial

Contributed by Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
COVID-19 – emergency measures to relax rules around annual accounts approval process
  • France
  • 04 May 2020

As part of a range of emergency measures to help businesses meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government adopted Ordinance 2020-318 on 25 March 2020. The measures temporarily extend deadlines in the financial reporting and accounts approval process of listed and unlisted companies alike. In addition to commercial and civil companies, the new rules apply to partnerships, cooperatives, mutual companies, charities and foundations.

Temporary rules to facilitate virtual board meetings
  • France
  • 20 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on business operations. Companies are having to adapt quickly to social distancing measures and travel restrictions and many are now dispensing with face-to-face board meetings in favour of virtual meetings or written procedures. Thus, an ordinance was recently adopted to relax the rules around virtual board and shareholder meetings.

More flexible regime for intra-group guarantees issued by public limited companies
  • France
  • 20 January 2020

Law 2019-744 of 19 July 2019 seeks to simplify and update wide-ranging aspects of company law. The measures include changes to the approval process that public limited companies must follow in order to issue, in favour of a third party, a guarantee of the obligations of a subsidiary that they control. These changes aim to enable foreign subsidiaries of French companies to respond more quickly to international tender processes.

Supreme Court reaffirms Dailly assignments
  • France
  • 12 March 2018

The Commercial Division of the Supreme Court has clarified how an assignment of business receivables, known as a 'Dailly assignment', operates. Through this decision, the Supreme Court has reinforced the effectiveness of the Dailly assignment mechanism by giving full effect to the assigned debtor's actual knowledge of the assignment and by giving no effect to contractual provisions that restrict assignment.

New law introduces ethical accountability for corporates
  • France
  • 27 November 2017

The new law on the duty of vigilance for parent companies and principal contractors aims to improve the accountability of multinational companies, prevent serious incidents in France and abroad and allow parties to obtain compensation for losses which they suffer as a consequence of non-compliance. To achieve these aims, the law requires companies to draft an awareness plan and implement a monitoring and whistleblowing system. It also introduces penalties for non-compliance.


Corporate Finance/M&A

Contributed by AYACHE
Private M&A transactions: update on foreign investments
  • France
  • 17 February 2021

In the context of the worldwide economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, France has reinforced its protection of French companies from foreign investments by extending existing measures and slowing down or vetoing negotiations if deemed necessary. This article discusses cases which show the government's impartiality when it comes to protecting France's sensitive sectors regardless of the country from which the foreign investor comes and the relationship that France has with such country.

Private M&A deals: Paris Court of Appeal manual for overriding termination clauses
  • France
  • 02 December 2020

In acquisitions of group companies, the agreements entered into by the parties are often subject to termination clauses. If the conditions of a termination clause are met, the beneficiary of such clause can choose between terminating the agreement and waiving its termination right in order to obtain the contract's performance. A recent case before the Paris Court of Appeal provides an example of the issues that may arise when a termination clause is insufficiently accurate.

Equity swaps and takeover bids: intentions matter
  • France
  • 30 September 2020

In April 2020 the Financial Markets Regulator (AMF) heavily penalised a hedge fund for omitting to disclose its objectives regarding a takeover bid after it had purchased large amounts of equity swaps in shares of the company subject to the takeover. This decision confirms that the mere fact that equity swaps can give the equity swap holder access to shares of a company that is the subject of a takeover bid is enough for them to fall within the scope of the takeover bid legislation.

How to close a deal during lockdown… and in the future
  • France
  • 15 July 2020

Closing is the ultimate stage in an M&A transaction where all parties meet to seal – and celebrate – their agreement; however, it can be a traumatic process due to the time spent in meeting rooms signing and initialising contracts. Lawyers and clients have long hoped for change in this regard. During the COVID-19 lockdown, signs of a change emerged in the form of electronic signatures, as contracts could not be signed in person and scheduled closings were either dematerialised or delayed.

Private M&A transactions: tightening state control over foreign investment due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • France
  • 17 June 2020

​In the context of the worldwide economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU authorities issued guidelines to reinforce the protection of strategic sectors and vulnerable companies from foreign investment. However, the measures taken by France are not as far reaching as in other EU countries, as the French authorities chose to extend the measures to biotechnologies and take precautionary temporary measures with respect to listed companies.