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Baker McKenzie names Alyssa Auberger as Chief Sustainability Officer

Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie has named Paris-based Partner Alyssa Auberger as its first Chief Sustainability Officer. Alyssa will be responsible for leading the Firm’s global Sustainability strategy which is core to the Firm’s overall priorities for the next decade.

After beginning her legal career in-house in the United States, Alyssa joined Baker McKenzie in Paris in 1998 and from 2016 until this appointment, was Global Chair of its Consumer Goods & Retail Industry Group. In this role, she worked closely with a number of global bodies, including the United Nations Global Compact, to heighten awareness of the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks and opportunities for the consumer goods and retail industry. She has worked with the Firm’s leading practices to develop solutions for clients on supply chain transparency and claims, product lifecycle issues, and human rights and emissions reporting, in order to help them understand their impact and responsibilities across entire value chains.

Franco-American and as a partner specialised in multijurisdictional M&A and Private Equity transactions and based in Baker McKenzie’s Paris office, Alyssa has extensive experience regularly advising American and French corporations, multinationals, and private equity investment funds on their acquisitions and divestitures worldwide as well as in their international expansion efforts.

Baker McKenzie has strong relationships with leading sustainability-focused forums, including the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, of which it was the first law firm member. In 2017, the Firm collaborated with the World Economic Forum to launch the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, which brings together leading policy makers, businesses, start-ups, academia and international organisations to collaborate for the greater good by maximising the benefits of science and technology.

The Firm became a participant of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) in 2015 and remains committed to upholding the Ten Principles on human and labour rights, the environment and anti‐corruption. Since then, it has adopted eight of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Gender Equality, Climate Action, and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Recently Global Chair Milton Cheng joined more than 1,200 Chief Executive Officers from companies in over 100 countries to demonstrate the Firm’s support for the United Nations and inclusive multilateralism by signing onto a powerful Statement from Business Leaders for Renewed Global Cooperation. To mark the 75th Anniversary of the UN, the statement was released by the UNGC Action Platform for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16), of which Baker McKenzie is a proud co-patron. The Firm also recently announced commitments to significantly reduce its global carbon emissions over the next decade and achieve aspirational global gender diversity targets, set at 40:40:20 per cent, to represent 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (women, men or non-binary persons).

Alyssa said, “I am delighted to be taking on this new role and leading Baker McKenzie’s Sustainability efforts. Our clients are at differing stages of their sustainability journeys and we want to do all we can to help them achieve their ESG goals given our own depth of experience. More than 20 years ago, we established the first Climate Change practice within a major law firm, and we now offer a number of ESG Advisory services, including Sustainable Finance, Corporate Governance, Renewable Energy, Human Rights and Modern Slavery, Sustainable Real Estate and Responsible Product Sourcing.”

As well as announcing Alyssa’s appointment, Baker McKenzie reaffirmed its commitment to placing Sustainability at the core of its strategy for the coming decade, facilitating active engagement with like-minded businesses, governments, international organisations and civil society, in order to achieve shared goals for a more sustainable world.

Milton Cheng, Global Chair of Baker McKenzie said, “Collaborating with our clients to find solutions to their complex problems has always been at the core of what our Firm does. We strive to provide holistic business advice to our clients, helping them navigate their sustainability risks, as well as identify the opportunities that come with being a responsible business.”

Milton adds: “As a passionate lawyer, partner and leader within Baker McKenzie for over 20 years, Alyssa understands our Firm, our practices and our clients and I have no doubt that this knowledge will be an asset to her as she leads our Firm wide efforts with the same passion and commitment she has always shown.”

Incompetence of the French Judicial Tribunal

Decree n°2019-1333 dated 11 December 2019 (Article 2) has this year introduced a new Article 82-1 in the French Code de procédure civile, which is said to simplify incompetence exceptions (heading of the Section 2 of the said decree : the simplification of incompetence exceptions).

This new Article 82-1 came into force on 1 January 2020 and establishes a new derogatory scheme creating a possibility to challenge the competence of the judicial tribunal. The judicial tribunal was recently created with the merger of the TGI (Tribunal de Grande Instance) and the TI (Tribunal d’Instance), such jurisdictions dealing with civil matters. Due to the coronavirus Covid-19 sanitary crisis, legal practitioners did not really have the time to test this new regime.

As a general rule (Article 74 of the French Code de procédure civile), an incompetence exception has to be raised in limine litis, that is to say, at the first hearing, before any discussions on the ground of the case, and by way of principle, before the same judge ruling on the case. On the contrary, and by way of derogation, the new scheme sets up a possibility to raise an incompetence exception, before the first hearing, either the parties or the judge raising it. If trigged, the parties or their lawyers are informed right away by any means giving fixed date (date certaine). In this perspective, the file is transmitted to the registry (greffe) of the judicial tribunal, which in turn, transfers the case to a designated judge. The competence of this newly appointed judge may also be challenged, by him or the parties, during a period of 3 months, by the transfer of the case to the President of the judicial tribunal. According to the new regulation, the President of the judicial tribunal has to transfer the case to a new appointed judge, and such a decision cannot be challenged. However, the competence of this new appointed judge may be challenged before this new judge by the parties, and the decision ruling on the competence may be appealed within a period of 15 days, as of the date of the notification of the decision.

The President of the judicial tribunal appears to be the keystone of the scheme, which is in line with the role usually attributed to him, as already in charge for example of summary proceedings (e.g. référé). The fixed date (date certaine) and the 3 months timeframe appear to be crucial, and purport to avoid endless discussions on the competence.

However, and surprisingly, this new scheme creates a very sophisticated legal architecture, not to mention the potential right to call the case before the French Cour de cassation (Supreme Court). In such a context, these new rules may unfortunately be used to artificially challenge a procedure and lengthen it. An author has recently described this mechanism as a potential Trojan Horse, allowing dilatory procedures (Katia Bennadji, Dalloz actualité, 22 July 2020, « L’article 82-1 du Code de procédure civile : cheval de Troie au service de manœuvres dilatoires »). This remains true to a certain extent, as this new Article 82-1 has been introduced in a context where, on the contrary, a lot of other procedural rules are aimed at streamlining the procedure e.g. concentration of the legal means (concentration des moyens), estoppel or prohibition of dilatory procedures.

In a constant movement, the French Cour de cassation draws the outlines of the concentration of the legal means principle. The French Cour de cassation (C. cass. civ. 2, 11 April 2019, n°17-31785), recently stated that the plaintiff, before any ruling on the case, has to expose all the legal means considered as the ground for the claim. This means that, in a same instance, an overruled legal claim cannot be raised again in connection with another ground based on the same object, as the one on which the tribunal has already definitely stated. According to this case law, the rule of the concentration of the legal means, uses the same underpinned concept as the fin de non-recevoir (i.e. res judicata pro veritate habetur), but is not an exception procedure as rather deals with the ground of the case. It remains to be seen however how this case law and all the case law hereof, will be used by legal practitioners to limit the import of this new Article 82-1. In this perspective, it is reasonable to think that they may wish to use the concentration of the legal means principle, also in connection with procedure exceptions, such as incompetence.

In addition, the estoppel theorie, albeit originally English law concept, is now part of the French legal system. In a considerably important decision, the French Cour de cassation, recognised and introduced into French law, this Anglo-Saxon concept (C. cass. Ass. Plen., 27 February 2009 (n°07-19.841)) and considers it as a fin de non-recevoir (i.e. a legal mean aiming at having declared the claim of the other party as not receivable). In this respect, the French Cour de cassation has stated that actions of the same nature based on the same conventions, opposing the same parties may give rise to a sanction, provided that a party kept contradicting itself, at the expenses of others. More specifically, the French Cour de cassation, Civ. 2, dated 15 March 2018 (n°17-21.991) reiterated this position, ruling that « (…) the principle according to which no one may contradict itself at the expenses of others, sanctions the procedural attitude consisting, for a party, during a same instance, to adopt contrary or incompatible positions leading the adversary in error as to its intentions ». Thus, it is reasonable to think that legal practitioners will use, inter alia, the estoppel theory to limit the possibility to use incompetence exceptions. In addition, even if the contradiction may occur in the same instance, it cannot be excluded that a judge may wish to streamline the procedure and prevent a party from utilising incompetence exceptions several times, in a same context.

A judge would also have the possibility to use article 32-1 of the French Code de procédure civile, which states that a person acting in justice in a dilatory manner may be convicted to a civil fine up to 3.000 euros, without prejudice of damages that would be claimed. In that event, the amount related to the civil fine is paid to the French Trésor Public.

To remain in the real trend of the procedure regulation, i.e. constant equilibrium between defence rights and efficiency of the legal system, judges and legal practitioners are in the position to put forward a strict construction of Article 82-1 of the French Code de procédure civile. Constructions rules are clear in this respect : exceptions or derogations have to be interpreted strictly, and the scheme created is created by way of exception. This means that each time a lawyer would invoke a competence exception on the basis of this new Article 82-1, the judge would have to conduct a teleological construction, in the view of maintaining a sufficient level of efficiency of the procedure, especially in a context where (i) ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights) already imposes an effective recourse in every steps of the procedure and (ii) numerous litigations deal with international matters, allowing the parties to raise incompetence exceptions, also on the ground of judicial international private law.

Up to date as of 22 July 2020

Rights and Liberties, Liability of the French State and Judicial Review

On 24 December 2019 the Conseil d’Etat ruled that indemnification can be granted under French law on the ground of a prejudice suffered due to the application of a law ruled contrary to the Constitution by the Conseil Constitutionnel.

The Conseil d’Etat now leaves the door open to a new possibility for indemnification, within the framework of a QPC examination (Question Prioritaire de Constitutionnalité) or by application of Article 61 of the Constitution (subject to conditions). Based on the hierarchy of norms, this new kind of liability of the State is stated in three decisions dated 24 December 2019 (req. N°425981, N° 425983 and N°428162).

This new regime lives now next to the already existing liability due to the application of the law (responsabilité du fait des lois) based on equal treatment before public burdens (principe d’égalité des usagers devant les charges publiques).

A QPC is a question raised by a tribunal or a court aiming at determining the conformity of a law to the Constitution. Article 61-1 of the French Constitution states in this respect that during an instance before a tribunal or a court (private or public), a plaintiff can support the view that a law contravenes rights and liberties guaranteed by the French Constitution. In such a situation, the Conseil Constitutionnel can be seized after remand of the case by the Conseil d’Etat or the Cour de Cassation.

The general principle under French administrative law is that the French State can be sued simply because of the application of a law, provided that (i) the plaintiff has suffered a prejudice qualifying as important and specific (grave et special) and (ii) the law in question does not exclude the possibility for a plaintiff to be indemnified. This type of liability is applicable even if the French State is not considered as being in default with the application of the law and is named liability without misconduct (responsabilité sans faute de l’administration).

This possibility started in France at the beginning of the 20th century (Conseil d’Etat, case Couitéas – 1923), with the admission of liability without misconduct of the French State due to an administrative decision of non-enforcement of judicial decisions. In such a case, in the general interest, the French State may decide not to enforce a judicial decision, but in turn, has to indemnify the plaintiff. The ground for indemnification is the breach of equal treatment before public burdens principle (principe d’égalité des usagers devant les charges publiques). This principle is taken from the French 1789 declaration of the human rights and the citizen: each member of the community has to bear a certain amount of public burdens, but equal treatment shall prevail.

This principle has expanded thereafter with the admission of such a claim against a law (and not against an administrative decision only) by the Conseil d’Etat in 1938 (Conseil d’Etat, case Société la Fleurette – 1938). Such a case establishes that, in the silence of the said law, a plaintiff shall not bear a charge created by a law that he/she would not normally lie with, it being specified that, in the event of silence of the said law, such law shall not be considered as excluding the liability of the French State (Conseil d’Etat case Coopérative Agricole Ax’ion – 2005).

The liability of the French State can also be triggered due to its obligations to ensure the application of its international conventions, to indemnify all the prejudices resulting from the application of a law passed illegally because contrary to an international convention (e.g. ECHR) (Conseil d’Etat, case Gardelieu – 2007).

Now, according to the new decisions of the French Conseil d’Etat dated 24 December 2019, the other grounds for indemnification are (1) that the decision of the Conseil Constitutionnel does not decide that no indemnification shall be granted either (i) by excluding it expressly or (ii) by letting alive all or only a part of pecuniary effects caused by the law, that an indemnification would challenge, (2) the existence of a prejudice and (3) the link between the prejudice and the unconstitutional application of the law.

As a consequence, a plaintiff may be indemnified in the following conditions : (i) no express exclusion of indemnification by the Conseil Constitutionnel (ii) no all or part of pecuniary effects left alive by the Conseil Constitutionnel that an indemnification would challenge (iii) and (iv) a link between the prejudice and the unconstitutional application of the law.

According to the decision of the Conseil d’Etat, certain pecuniary effects of the law declared unconstitutional may prevail upon an indemnification. In this respect, it is reasonable to think that an administrative judge would apply an economic balance check between the necessity of indemnifying the plaintiff and the profit of letting alive all or only a part of pecuniary effects caused by the unconstitutional law. An economic balance check is already applied in other circumstances (expropriation with the application of the théorie du bilan coûts / avantages), by the Conseil d’Etat (Conseil d’Etat case Ville Nouvelle Est – 1971).

In this perspective, it is reasonable to think that the application of an unconstitutional law may survive if it is more interesting from an economic point of view. This mentioned carve out is quite important as it gives the possibility to the Conseil Constitutionnel to let alive, even if the law is declared unconstitutional, and then cancelled, parts of its pecuniary effects.

In addition to the breach of equal treatment before public burdens principle (principe d’égalité des usagers devant les charges publiques), it can be suggested that other principles may underpin this kind of liability: preservation of legal safety (sécurité juridique) and /or granted rights (préservation des droits acquis), and / or economic balance check, to take into account all the adverse financial effects that an indemnification would cause.

The claim for indemnification can obviously be barred by effluxion of time, it being specified that the 4 (four) years period during which such a claim can be brought only starts if the prejudice resulting from the application of the law may be known in its reality and its scope by the plaintiff, without the possibility for him or her to be regarded as ignoring the existence of his / her right to claim until the declaration of unconstitutionality.

The indemnification request has to be brought before the administrative judge (Tribunal Administratif). It remains however to be seen whether legal practitioners will try to use these decisions of the Conseil d’Etat to sue the French State before the judicial order (ordre judiciaire). Under French law, the French Conseil d’Etat is the highest court entitled to address administrative cases and is part of the administrative order (ordre administratif) whereas the judicial order (ordre judiciaire) is composed of judiciary tribunal and courts (jurisdictions judiciaires) and is competent for private matters. How dealing with the fact that a tribunal or a court may apply deliberately after the declaration of unconstitutionality a law previously declared unconstitutional outside the scope of the carve out of the ratio decidendi of the Conseil d’Etat? Would Article 141-1 of the Code de l’organisation judiciaire, which gives competence to the judicial order in the event of indemnification of a prejudice due to malfunction of judicial public service, apply? It is reasonable to think that such indemnification would not be allowed even if legal practitioners may wish to test it, and may be, open this possibility, for the residual adverse effects on the plaintiff of the law declared unconstitutional.

A lack of indemnification by the French State may also give rise to a lawsuit before the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), a plaintiff would still have in fine, the right to be indemnified on the basis of the application of a law declared unconstitutional. From a theoretical point of view, and on the basis of the hierarchy of norms, letting a country member of the European Council apply a law declared unconstitutional could raise issues.

Up to date 24 December 2019

Coronavirus (Covid-19), French continuing plans and economy

On 13 March 2020, French Ministry of Justice issued a press release just after the announcements of the President of the French Republic. The aim, due to the emergency, is to protect citizens who are the most vulnerable and to curb the epidemic. Chancery has now prepared continuing plans to allow Justice to face core obligations of the Nation.

According to a CNB (Conseil National des Barreaux) release dated 15 March 2020, the continuing plans will be triggered as from 16 March 2020 by the Ministry of Justice to avoid propagation of Covid-19. Tribunal and courts will be closed, except for cases relating to core litigations.

Core litigations are limited to (i) criminal tribunals and courts including (a) pre-trial custody (détention provisoire) and probation (contrôle judiciaire), (b) immediate criminal summary trials (comparution immédiate), (c) appearance before the liberty and custody judge (juge des libertés et de la détention), (d) appearance before the enforcement judge (juge de l’application des peines) including appeals, these latest in the events of emergency only, (e) permanence of public prosecutor’s office (permanence du parquet), (f) hearings relating to investigation chamber for custody (audience de la chambre d’instruction pour la détention) and (ii) civil tribunals and courts including (a) children’s courts and permanence in the events of emergency only (audiences du tribunal pour enfants et du juge pour enfants et permanence du tribunal pour enfants) – including educational assistance (assistance educative), (b) summary judgments (including relating to family matters), but based on emergency only, (c) civil liberties and custody judge hearings (juge des libertés et de la détention civil).

Due to the risks of contamination, instructions are, to the extent possible, to cancel criminal court sessions related to crimes (cour d’assises). It is also allowed to postpone hearings (taking into account reasonable time extension and pre-trial custody time-frame).

Legal public facilities (services d’accueil du public) will be closed as well as justice centers and legal access points. Even if justice civil servants will not be allowed to receive public, they will be reachable by phone to address emergency situations.

As far as Paris is concerned, the first President of the court of appeal of Paris issued an ordinance dated 16 March 2020 (N°105/2020) named ordonnance de roulement modificative (amending rotation ordinance), on the basis of, inter alia, the decision of the Ministry of justice dated 15 March 2020 triggering continuing plans, article L1142-7 of the French Code de la Défense and emergency. Such article not only states that (i) the Ministry of Justice ensures in all circumstances the continuity of the legal criminal services as well as enforcement of criminal sanctions, but also (ii) he participates in fighting against elements adversely affecting fundamental interests of the Nation (this including preservation of the population in and outside France, according to article 410-1 of the French Code pénal).

Aside to the public authorities, the legal profession, as a whole, may support the economy : it can be suggested that business lawyers may wish to consider advising their clients to enter into settlement agreements (within the meaning of article 2044 of the French Civil Code) to solve pending litigations and to unlock commercial situations created by the current sanitary crisis.

This would give the economy a possibility to maintain a flow of activity.

Up to date 16 March 2020

Potential economic impact of the Rugby World Cup

Building on previous studies for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2003 in Australia, RWC 2007 in France and an advance study for RWC 2011 in New Zealand, we used our major event economic impact methodology to estimate the potential impact of a future RWC on a set of potential Host Nations.

Our report provided a thorough analysis of the possible economic gains a future RWC could lead to in various Host Nations. It outlined the generic economic benefits to a country of hosting a major event such as this and provided contextual data for the impact associated with other similar international sports events.

Using our tried and testing methodology for assessing the potential impact of major sports events, we estimated the direct and indirect economic impact of a RWC on the major rugby regions by building a model for each country.

For each region (including Western Europe, SANZAR, and for developing rugby nations) we also identified regional factors that could affect the level of economic impact. Our analysis incorporated the possible contribution of a Host Country’s government via taxation.

The report continues to provide important support to Host Unions and Governments when deciding whether to bid for future RWCs.

“Deloitte’s Rugby World Cup economic impact study was excellent. Deloitte have a real insight into major events and showed rigour in assessing the economic impact that the Rugby World Cup has on host nations.~ Robert Brophy, Head of Finance, World Rugby

Mathieu Colas and Hélène Chaplain join Monitor Deloitte France

Both new partners have been at Deloitte for between six months to one and a half years, and after demonstrating their track record externally and internally, they have been promoted to senior partner and admitted into Monitor Deloitte’s ranks. Monitor Deloitte is the strategy consulting brand of Deloitte Consulting, established in 2012 after Deloitte acquired Monitor Group, a boutique US-headquartered strategic consultancy that was founded by among others strategy guru Michael Porter.

Hélène Chaplain is a senior partner in the firm’s Digital Strategy & Innovation practice, and is the leader of Deloitte’s wider Consumer Business industry segment, which spans services to clients in the automotive, consumer goods, retail, transportation and hospitality industries. She previously spent 17 years at Accenture, since 2001 in the role of partner. In her most recent roles, Chaplain served as Accenture France’s industry lead for consumer goods and was head of the firm’s digital consulting arm for clients in the products landscape.

Mathieu Colas is a senior partner in charge of Monitor Deloitte’s automotive and new mobility offerings. He started his career with Deloitte at Deloitte Digital – the Big Four firm’s rapidly growing digital wing – and previously spent four years at Capgemini Invent and over a decade at Oliver Wyman. Colas focuses on topics including (digital) strategy, large-scale transformation, emerging technologies, advanced analytics and digital transformation.

As part of their new roles, both Colas and Chaplain joined Monitor Deloitte’s annual offsite in June. During the three day trip to Biarritz in the south of France, the firm’s leadership walked through the year’s top accomplishments and the ambitions for the current financial year. Meanwhile, consultants were provided the room to network, share experiences and best practices and enjoy the region’s sunny weather and culinary culture.

Last year, Monitor Deloitte France added Olivier Perrin, a former Accenture Strategy partner, to its leadership ranks in Paris.