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France: Investigations 2016

The investigations practice area is an internationally growing phenomenon as government regulators and criminal prosecutors increasingly scrutinise the activities of corporations and their personnel. This attention has made the legal knowledge and the methodological familiarity behind regulatory and criminal investigations a prized asset among many of the world’s leading corporations and the law firms that advise them. The close technical relationship with white-collar crime defence means that many law firms combine the practice areas, with lawyers typically hailing from a commercial litigation or business crime defence background. With a new financial prosecutor and moves towards extending plea bargaining to major white-collar crimes, internal investigations may soon take off in France. We list 18 practitioners in this regard.

At Allen & Overy, Aurélien Hamelle is a respected expert financial criminal law and advises on investigations involving money laundering and corruption, as well as internal fraud investigations for corporate clients in France and in Europe. Respondents find him to be a “brilliant operator”.

Bredin Prat’s Eric Dezeuze is “a leading figure” in white-collar crime and represents high-level corporate clients in investigations in relation to financial crime, fraud, stock exchange regulations and corrupt practices.

At Linklaters, Kiril Bougartchev is a leading authority in relation to fraud and corruption and recently advised a leading defence company in relation to a misappropriation of its corporate assets. Arnaud de La Cotardière is widely recognised for his expertise in financial and stock exchange regulation, and he regularly represents clients before the French Stock Exchange Authority.

The well-known, experienced and highly regarded commercial and criminal law specialist Vincent Asselineau founded the boutique Asselineau & Associés in January 2016; the firm offers a wide range of civil and criminal law counselling for businesses.         

Clifford Chance’s Jean-Pierre Grandjean regularly represents large international French and international corporate clients in regulatory enforcement and white collar crime matters. He has “a superb technical knowledge base” and “an excellent network of contacts”, according to observers.

At Hogan Lovells, Antonin Lévy is highly regarded for his criminal business law practice, focusing fraud, anti-money laundering, anti-bribery and corruption, international sanctions and other regulatory and compliance issues. According to peers, “He is very popular with clients, who find him judicious, intelligent and user-friendly.”

Gutkès Avocats is a boutique firm focused on business crime, including financial, stock exchange, labour, environmental, libel and public health matters. Founding partner Olivier Gutkès is regularly cited by domestic and international respondents as “one of the most knowledgeable and experienced criminal law practitioners in France”.

At Debevoise & Plimpton, Frederick Davis is a distinguished trial law, who has significant experience in criminal, regulatory and civil litigation, as well as investigations involving US and French laws for large multinational corporations. He is “highly recommended” by sources both domestically and internationally, who praise his analytical, technical perceptive abilities.

Simmons & Simmons’ country head Thierry Gontard is a renowned specialist in finance litigation and has significant experience with the French courts and regulators in connection with stock exchange regulation violations, as well as other white collar crimes.

At Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Dominique Mondoloni’s practice includes conducting complex, worldwide internal corporate investigations for corporations and their directors. His is “sensationally good at what he does” and “very thorough”, according to respondents,

At Farthouat Asselineau & Associés, founding partner Nathalie Roret is an experienced and widely “recognised leader” in issues of criminal liability.

Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier’s co-founding partner Jean-Michel Darrois has a preeminent status among the legal elite in France. His clients include the board of directors and senior management at high profile corporations in the country.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s head of the Paris litigation team is the “excellent” Stéphane Bénouville, who represents banks and financial institutions in regulatory investigations and enforcement proceedings, as well as in investigations by public prosecutors and French legislators. He is noted for his “savvy approach” and “close attention to detail”.

Fischer Tandeau de Marsac Sur & Associés is a firm with a strong focus on business crime. Pierre-Olivier Sur is the senior lawyer in this respect, regularly advising domestic and international businesses on a wide range of sensitive matters.

Antoine Derot of Reinhart Marville Torre is “a prominent name” in commercial and financial litigation, with “a very strong practice” in corporate criminal law, according to respondents.

Lebray & Associés is small but highly regarded firm with an emphasis on advising domestic and international businesses and individuals in criminal or quasi-criminal conduct. Stéphane Bonifassi is the key figure in this regard, with peers perceiving him to be “an outstanding practitioner” in business crime matters.

Jean Veil, founding partner of Veil Jourde, is a longstanding player in criminal business law, with extensive experience in litigation and regulatory enforcement.

Experts

We list three forensic accountants this year.

At Deliotte France, Karl Payeur is extensively experienced in leading fraud, corruption and money laundering investigations, and is recognised by sources internationally as “a leading name” in relation to forensic investigation in the French speaking world. Elisabeth Avril is extensively experience in fraud and financial crime investigations. One source said, “She is an outstanding expert in her field, very thorough and responsive”. Alongside them, Anthony Charlton has over 20 years of experience in forensic accounting, acting for companies conducting or under investigation in a range of matters, including fraud, joint-venture disputes, post-transaction disputes and contentious valuations. He is recommended by clients both domestically and internationally as “a top name”. 

Head of the KPMG forensic team in Paris Jean-Luc Guitera specialises in fraud investigations, and he has been involved in more than 100 investigations into domestic and foreign operations of French-based entities. Respondents find him to be “a good operator with a keen eye for detail”. 

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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W11 1QQ, UK