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During the discussion that followed the inaugural conference for the Cycle Pour une Europe de la Compliance (For a Europe of Compliance) that Koen Lenaerts devoted to the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the construction of the Europe of Compliance, and after a first discussion led by Antoine Garapon, a problem has particularly emerged.
Indeed, President Koen Lenaerts has taken up the question of the influence of the adoption of a "compliance program" by a company when subsequently anticompetitive behavior is imputed to it.
Competition or regulatory authorities, as well as courts, have three possibilities: either to consider that the company had done what it could to prevent this behavior, to educate the persons in its charge, that this prevention not enough but must be taken into account in its "discharge" to lighten its sanction; on the contrary, to consider that the adoption of such a compliance program by the enterprise by which it expresses its express and pro-active desire to bear the efficiency of the standard itself while at the same time it disregards it constitutes an aggravating circumstance of its responsibility; consider that the fact must remain neutral in the judge's assessment of the behavior.
The Court of Justice stands by the third solution.
But everyone agrees that this is an essential question for which the arguments are well-founded, the European Commission, on the other hand, leaning towards the qualification of an aggravating fact.
During the discussion, it was emphasized in the opposite direction that in the perspective of Compliance as an incentive mechanism, not taking into account on the part of companies the adoption of such expensive programs is very discouraging for them. Moreover, this contradicts the definition of compliance as a "Trust pact" between the company and the public authority.
QWhat can be done to remain from this discussion of a very great interest?
So it's a question that is still open, because the arguments are strong and we could say that "everyone is right", and companies that want to take note of their behavior, and authorities who can not be abused by what would be only a screen of behavior violating Law.
The question is maybe whether the choice of "neutrality" of the Court of Justice is a solution of waiting or a decision of non-choice, because one could never know if a company is "sincere" or not when it has adopted a Compliance Program.
It is probably here that a solution could be found: in probative mechanisms. Because in these matters, it is by technical processes by which the subject of law (that is to say the company) reveals that it has done everything to achieve the Compliance purpose (obligation of means strengthened). ).
It is probably by formulating probative requirements of this kind that the Court of Justice could move out of its position of neutrality. While it is true that the judge must be "impartial" in relation to the facts, the attitude of giving no "relevance" to a fact as important as the compliance programs is inherently annoying. It seems difficult to associate a substantive rule, nor is it desirable to practice casuistry. But, because Economic Law lends itself to it, a probationary system that the Court would make clear would perhaps be a good solution.
Dans l'ouvrage qui paraîtra à la fin du cycle de conférences, un article sera inséré dans l'ouvrage sur cette question plus particulière de la portée des programmes de conformité sur l'appréciation du comportement de l'opérateur au regard des faits qui lui sont reprochés, question sur laquelle les différents régulateurs des différents systèmes juridiques divergent.
In the book that will be published at the end of the conference cycle, an article will be inserted in it on this particular question of the effects of compliance programs on the appreciation of the behavior of the enterprises with regard to the facts that are reproached, an issue on which the different regulators of the different legal systems diverge. For the moment.