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This Special Report covers 41 practice areas.

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France In Brief

France’s traditionally strong economy and its relationship with the European continent define the makeup of its unique legal market. Centred on the capital, a significant number of international Anglo-Saxon law firms have their largest continental office based in the city, with some having been established around half a century ago. Their primary competition, aside from each other, is the large and highly competitive independent French firms. However, a more recent development in the French capital has been the relatively strong growth and diversification of local and boutique law firms, which can often be seen acting on some of the highest-profile matters in the country. 

Paris’ central position in Europe ensures that it has always been the archetypal destination for foreign law firms establishing themselves on the continent. Its status as one of the traditional heavyweight economies in Europe (the second largest in the eurozone) is the overarching reason why the market is able to sustain the offices of so many law firms, while the country’s reputable legal structure makes it a prime location for the conduct of international business transactions and commercial disputes. Indeed, it is a centre of international arbitration, on a par with London and Hong Kong, and it is the seat of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. Meanwhile, due to its colonial heritage, Paris is the gateway and the legal hub for the financing and implementation of large energy, natural resources and infrastructure projects in Francophone Africa – most of the lawyers in our energy, mining and government contracts chapters are focused on advising states and multinationals in this respect. The boom years preceding the financial crisis also had a significant influence on the landscape, when a new wave of US law firms added to an already highly competitive legal market.

Current climate

The years following the crisis have been challenging to the status quo. After a longer period of economic stagnation than its transatlantic neighbours, both large foreign and domestic law firms suffered well into 2013 as economic uncertainty depressed corporate, capital markets and financing deal activity – the life blood of most international law firms. As a result, a number of corporate and finance teams were slimmed down during this time, which accounts for the establishment of numerous boutique law firms – as entrepreneurial partners saw the current climate more befitting of specialised firms with a much lower cost base.

However, beginning in 2014 and continuing to some degree in 2015 economic growth and deal activity picked up. Indeed, last year’s growth figures were the best since François Hollande took office in 2012, although the 1.1 per cent growth rate was still some way short of the 1.5 per cent target economists had set out. This was some consolation to the upper echelons of the legal market but fears have heightened again with mounting concern over the economic slowdown in China, which is home to a number of key investors in the French economy and Francophone Africa. Furthermore, current political and social instability in the country and the rest of the eurozone is a significant cause for concern among investors.

A clear sign of the political and economic volatility in France was exposed by the government’s recent efforts to make the country more competitive and business-friendly, in response to a growth in unemployment and disappointing consumer spending levels. In 2015, the socialist government pushed through a series of new pro-business measures, named the Macron Law after the economics minister Emmanuel Macron. The measures include loosened Sunday-trading rules, a sell-off worth billions in state shareholdings, liberalisation of the transport sector and the deregulation of certain professions. However, amid fears of a far-left backlash against the bill, the reforms had to be forced through the French Parliament using the controversial constitutional article 49-3. Despite the controversy surrounding the new measures, commentators feel that powerful left-wing lobbyists have derailed some of the more potent reforms in the bill; ultimately it is widely felt that the limited scope of the Macron Law will fail to see the improvements in the economy that Macron had envisaged.

Notwithstanding wide-ranging economic concerns, specific areas of the French legal market are reportedly faring well. The competition authority is one of the strictest in the world and is currently undergoing a period of sweeping antitrust enforcement, which last year sat Orange fined €350 million – the largest against a single company in the authority’s history. The number of international arbitrations seated in Paris continues to be among the highest in the world, with the courts and French law continuing to support its status. The country is also increasingly litigious within both its administrative and commercial courts. Recent changes to the system include a new class action regime known as the Hamon Law, introduced by the country’s new Consumer Protection Act.

Meanwhile, white-collar crime and investigations practices in the country are becoming ever more important as authorities increase the scope of enforcement action and the penalties for infringement increases exponentially. The country has recently raised the maximum penalty for corruption offences from €750,000 to €5 million, and penalties for insider trading and stock manipulation from €1.5 million to at least €15 million, while the criminal courts can now fine a corporation up to 15 per cent of its annual profits. The government is also looking to introduce an independent Anti-Bribery Authority, which will oversee the implementation of anti-bribery compliance measures by companies.

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The last few years have been challenging for international law firms. There have been numerous examples of law firms cutting back practices in the last four years, leading to a more diverse legal market. Yet there remain significant opportunities for development, and boutiques have found success operating at lower costs while offering smaller fees. However, the French legal market, by its very nature, will always be competitive and a prized asset in a firm’s global network. It will take a much graver turn for the worse before some of the more established firms in the market abandon their longstanding positions in Paris.

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Analysis: France

France: Administrative Litigation 2016

In this chapter, 18 leading lawyers are recognised.

France: Arbitration 2016

France continues to be a leading seat of arbitration since adopting new arbitration laws in 2011, which has enshrined and modernised the country’s favourable and efficient domestic and international arbitral establishment. Numerous foreign arbitral providers are seated in the country and it hosts several important institutions, including the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In this chapter, 75 individuals are singled out as leaders in the field. 

France: Asset Recovery 2016

In this chapter we identify eight leading lawyers who are spearheading the practice of asset recovery in France.

France: Banking 2016

The French banking sector is experiencing turbulent times. In August 2015, the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive was ratified into French law, which requires banks to show that they have the appropriate resources to maintain activities that are essential to financial stability. Forthcoming legislation from the French government is also expected to make changes to the pecking order of bank creditors in times of financial difficulty, improving depositor protection and generally reinforce the stability of the banking system overall.  Amid legislative reform, shares for the bank Société Générale dropped by 12 per cent in a day, prompting fears that France could be the trigger of another recession in the Eurozone. Against this backdrop our research highlights 16 individuals below.

France: Business Crime Defence 2016

It’s been another busy year for business crime defence advocates in France, with those we spoke to noting a renewed focus from the government in relation to enforcement actions. The past year has seen an attempt to speed up the process and improve the efficiency of financial crime cases, as well as a general clampdown on financial corruption. We recognise 31 leading lawyers for their work in the field.

France: Business Crime Defence Review 2016

marsigny

A Review of Business Crime Defence in 2016, by Emmanuel Marsigny of Marsigny Avocats

Business crime defence in France currently faces substantial changes with regards to both criminal procedure and substantive law. It is especially worthy to present some of the most significant on-going trends, such as: the new limitations to the double jeopardy in major white-collar crime fields; the attempts to develop transactional procedures; the expansion of money laundering prosecution; and the predicted significant evolution of anti-corruption regulations.

France: Capital Markets 2016

Europe’s capital markets are less than half the size of its transatlantic neighbour and European businesses are raising about five times less than their US equivalents. In response to a need for “deeper” capital markets across the single market, the European Commission recently launched its Capital Markets Union Action Plan, which includes measures to relaunch high-quality securitisation. Ultimately the plan will help increase and diversify the funding sources for Europe’s businesses and break down barriers that are blocking cross-border investments.    

France: Commercial Litigation 2016

Respondents attest to a litigious corporate and commercial environment. Last year’s merger-mania means it is likely that post-M&A disputes will increase and occupy a greater portion of a top litigator’s time. In addition to this, France’s new consumer law, the Hamon Law, has introduced class actions into the domestic legal system. Sources also point to an increase in contract and white-collar crime litigation. We identify 25 leading litigators. 

France: Competition & Economists 2016

The French Competition Authority has continued to utilise its powers to full effect. A high level of antitrust enforcement and record fines were imposed on infringers last year. The authority signalled its continuing intent at the end of 2015 by fining Orange €350 million, the largest against a single company in the authority’s history. Meanwhile, 20 delivery companies were fined €672 million for coordinating price hikes and surcharges – the second highest fine by the authority in recent years. 

France: Construction 2016

After a period of weak macroeconomic conditions, the fortunes of the domestic construction industry appear to be improving. France’s construction output grew steadily in 2015 thanks to the relaxation of government regulations and an increase in private investment. Emerging markets still present construction companies with business opportunities abroad; however, a slowdown is expected given the tenuous situation in China and Brazil at this moment in time. However, given the specialist nature of France’s practitioners, 2016 should see a continuation of their active work in the sector despite the negative conditions abroad. In this chapter, 10 leading practitioners are selected for inclusion. 

France: Corporate Immigration 2016

With immigration and freedom of movement a hot topic across Europe, France’s immigration law specialists have been busy. For example, the recent introduction of the “skills and talents” visa has seen an increase in advisory work, with more expected for 2016. Five practitioners are recognised as “experts” in the corporate immigration field.

France: Corporate Tax 2016

France has amended its finance bill for 2015 through an amendment in November 2015, to ensure that the county’s tax group consolidation regime aligns with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in its decision in the case Groupe Steria SCA v Ministère des Finances et des Comptes publics. Here it was held that French tax consolidation rules violate the freedom of establishment principle laid down in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as tax-integrated parent companies with subsidiaries established in other EU member states cannot acquire the same tax benefits for dividends which a domestic tax group of French companies can obtain. Such continued changes in the French corporate tax regime have resulted in increased demand for legal tax advice and a burgeoning legal marketplace. This is reflected in our listing of 66 of the most outstanding French practitioners – up from 45 last year – as well as five leading corporate tax expert witnesses.

France: Energy 2016

With Paris’ strong ties to francophone Africa, energy practices continue to thrive in the capital. Nationally, 2015 saw the adoption of the long-delayed energy transition bill which will see France’s reliance on nuclear energy reduced to 50 per cent of power generation by 2025. We list 36 individuals in this chapter deemed to be at the top of their game. 

France: Environment 2016

French environmental law is strictly observed, with authorities increasingly clamping down on both industrial and non-industrial entities. Legislation is also constantly evolving in the progressively eco-conscious society. In 2015, headline legislation, which requires rooftops on new commercial building to be at least partially covered in plants or solar panels, was approved. We have listed 17 leading lawyers in this section. 

France: Franchise 2016

Franchise networks continue to grow in France, with the business model now contributing around €60 billion to the domestic economy through over 1,500 systems and 60,000 franchisees. France is the largest franchising market in Europe and many international brands see it as the entry point for the European continent. However, appreciating cultural, economic and legal differences to the Anglo-Saxon markets is vitally important to the success of brand expansion in France, which cannot be accomplished without advice from well-versed local counsel. We list six leaders in this regard. 

France: Government Contracts 2016

The tightening budgets of public bodies have made the financing of public procurement and other forms of public contracts a prime concern. Accordingly there is greater demand for more innovative and complex contractual structures. Meanwhile, the greater competition among suppliers and contractors for these contracts has increased the likelihood of tenders being challenged in the administrative courts. We have listed 19 standout specialists in this area. 

France: Insurance & Reinsurance 2016

With consolidations in the insurance market continuing in 2015, practitioners on the M&A side have seen a busy year in the field, with further mergers and divestitures expected for the coming year. Cybercrime is the “hot topic” in the market at the moment, with lawyers waiting to see “how this trend will pan out”. In the meantime, they’re kept busy ensuring that clients are covered for all eventualities. In this chapter 18 practitioners are recommended.

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.

France: Life Sciences 2016

In a similar vein to other European countries, the French government is struggling to reign in its enormous social security deficit, which includes health insurance. As a result, the country is becoming increasingly austere in its pricing and reimbursement policy, including price cuts, delisting and generic prescription incentives. France has also become one of the first countries in the world to introduce automatic substitution of biosimilars over their typically more expensive reference products. Ultimately, this places greater pressure on life sciences companies to become more cost-effective and optimise the value of their products.

France: M&A and Governance 2016

In the last few years European M&A deal activity has been robust, with France being among the most active on the continent. However, the situation has deteriorated with a 41 per cent decline in transactions involving a French company during the first nine months of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. Current economic unpredictability and concerns over the price of the euro are having a negative impact on confidence in the region. Against this backdrop we identify 19 M&A practitioners and eight due diligence accountants. 

France: Management Labour & Employment 2016

With a number of new labour laws introduced over the last couple of years, lawyers in the field have seen a steady flow of advisory work.  With more reforms expected in the coming years, practitioners are expecting “the work to continue” and an interesting year to come in the market. There are 33 leading practitioners featured in this practice area.

France: Management Labour & Employment Review 2016

joel

A Review of Labour & Employment Law in 2016, by Joël Grangé of Flichy Grangé Avocats

In recent years, François Hollande’s government has introduced a number of reforms to the law governing employment in France. The Secure Employment Law of 14 June 2013 sought to increase flexibility in the labour market via provisions on collective agreements, internal and external mobility and the collective redundancy procedure, in exchange for a number of individual and collective labour rights.

France: Mediation 2016

Mediation has not played a very active role in dispute resolution in France in recent years. However, in August 2015, the French government transposed the 2013 EU directive regulating mediation for consumer disputes through the French Decree no. 2015-1382 on consumer mediation. The legislation establishes minimum standards for mediators, and extends an obligation for businesses to advise customers on the availability of mediation. This shows a first attempt at regulating mediation in France, aiming to expand the use of mediation in sales and service consumer contracts. As demand for alternative dispute resolution increases, this could result in significant new opportunities for mediators. It is certainly an area to watch in France and our research highlights 10 outstanding individuals. 

France: Mining 2016

As is to be expected, the main focus for French practitioners in the mining sector continues to be francophone Africa. The mining industry is becoming an increasingly difficult market to work and has seen a slow-down in many projects. Furthermore, companies are now having to find new ways of sourcing financial support, despite the continued interest from Chinese mining companies investing in the continent. Thirteen leading lawyers are highlighted for their work in the sector.

France: Patents 2016

Preparations for the Unified Patent Court and the Unitary Patent are in the final stages, and there is much anticipation for what will be the biggest change to patent law in Europe for 40 years. As the seat of the central division Paris will have a key role to play in the new system; it will be supported by two specialist sections in London and Munich. As a result, it is anticipated that competition in the market will increase as more patent firms look to expand their offering in the city. In this section we feature 26 patent lawyers and 21 patent attorneys considered at the top of their game. 

France: Private Client 2016

Following rising taxes for France’s top earners, a growing number of high net worth individuals are leaving the country each year. Figures published by French financial newspaper Les Echos show a 40 per cent increase in the number of people earning more than €100,000 leaving France in 2013 compared with 2012. Put into context, the overall French migration rate in 2013 increased by only 6 per cent. High net worth individuals are turning to seasoned professionals more than ever for assistance with their wealth management, and below we recognise nine talented lawyers who advise on a range of contentious and non-contentious matters.

France: Private Funds 2016

The Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD), which has created a more inclusive and robust regulatory framework for alternative investment funds within the EU, continues to be the key point of discussion with our respondents. The compliance demands the directive has placed on fund managers and legal counsel has been substantial, and this doesn’t look likely to abate as a review and re-write of the AIFMD is already scheduled for 2017. This year we recognise 11 leaders in the field of private funds law.

France: Product Liability Defence 2016

High-profile health scandals in France in recent years have seen a wave of lawsuits, the most infamous of which is probably the breast implant scandal involving the French company PIP. In its wake, there have been discussions and attempts to introduce class actions. The first breakthrough was achieved in February 2014, when consumer legislation allowing for class actions for consumer and competition law cases was introduced. This year, France is likely to see class action rules expanded to also cover health-related cases and lawyers will be monitoring the developments closely to ensure clients are well prepared. In this chapter, 15 individuals are selected for inclusion.

France: Project Finance 2016

With the contentious proposed revisions of the French civil code due to come into action in early 2016, it’s set to be a landmark year for the project finance sector in France. Initial fears that the revisions will nullify commercial contracts have been offset by the belief that the revisions will modernise and augment French contract law. Africa remains an active region for French specialists in the field, with local energy and infrastructure projects continuing to steam ahead. This chapter identifies 20 key performers in the field.

France: Real Estate 2016

The French commercial real estate market’s resurgence continued in 2015, with lawyers noting a steady flow of work with these increased levels of investment expected to extend into the coming year. Paris is noted as a popular destination for foreign investors, particularly with US equity funds who have been involved in a number of big ticket deals involving landmark buildings. From this year’s research 39 leading individuals are highlighted in the field.

France: Restructuring and Insolvency 2016

In 2016 France will introduce the Macron Law, set to have a significant effect on restructuring and insolvency practices in France. This innovative law will update current practice allowing, for the first-time, dedicated commercial courts the right to administer debt-for-equity swaps and will consolidate multiple insolvency proceedings. In this chapter, 21 leading lawyers have been illuminated by our research.

France: Sports 2016

We identify six leading lawyers for their work in the sector.

France: TMT 2016

A key focus over the past few years for French TMT lawyers has been the increase in work relating to data protection work. The issue goes hand-in-hand with that of cybersecurity, another area that owes its increase in prominence to mounting concerns over the technology rights and risks, and the subsequent changes in regulation. This year, 70 leading lawyers are recognised for their impressive work in the field.

France: Trade & Customs 2016

Despite the French economy still struggling with high unemployment and rigid labour laws, at the end of 2015 its trade gap decreased from €4.87 billion to €4.63 billion. This was mainly due to a 3 per cent increase in exports, a rise that fell short of market expectations; as such, the forecast for 2016 is a slow but steady increase in France’s market fortunes. Despite a small legal marketplace, the experts selected from France are “well regarded” in Europe and internationally. Four leading lawyers are listed in this chapter.

France: Trademarks 2016

The trademark industry in France is set to undergo significant changes in the next few months. In December 2015 the European Trademark reform was approved by the European Parliament, which commentators consider will bring “some of the most important reforms to EU trade mark laws since the introduction of the Community Trade Mark in 1996”. The new rules will strengthen both the national and European trademark systems by creating increased protection for rights holders and preserving freedom of expression. Both national and EU trademark registration procedures will be reformed, including the introduction of a new tailored fee structure, facilitating cheaper and easier trademark registration and protection. Against the backdrop of such changes our research highlights 34 practitioners and 15 trademark attorneys.

France: Transport 2016

In this chapter we list 41 leading transport lawyers in France covering aviation finance, regulatory and contentious experts, as well as the leading shipping and maritime lawyers.

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Firm Profiles: France

Allen & Overy

The Magic Circle firm’s Paris office offers leading multidisciplinary and cross-border practice groups for an impressive portfolio of clients, including Samsung, Société Générale, BNP Paribas and Vivendi. Allen & Overy has built a strong local foundation, having been in the French capital for 27 years; the office now employs over 160 lawyers, who are supported by a truly expansive network on both a European and international scale. The firm’s strength in depth is shown through its recognition in 18 separate practice areas. 

Bredin Prat

Bredin Prat is the largest independent law firm in Paris, with the strength and depth to rival the biggest global firms established in the French capital. The firm also competes on the continental stage with a formulised partnership with some the Europe’s best known law firms, including Slaughter and May, Uría Menéndez, and Hengeler Mueller. Founded in 1966, the firm has built on its arbitration and litigation expertise, particularly within its corporate practice. It prides itself on its ability to deliver exceptional services to clients, as well as for its international focus – with two-thirds of the firm’s activities being cross-border. It performs strongly this year, achieving 28 listings across 10 practice areas.

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance is a leading firm nationally in its own right, having been based in French capital for over 50 years. However, it also has the benefit of a 36 office network with over 2,500 lawyers, which ensures that the firm acts on some of the most complex and innovative inbound and outbound transactions. This scope is recognised in its prominent status in 15 practice areas featured in our research.

CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre

The “top destination for tax advice in France”, CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre benefits from a network of over 3,000 law and tax experts across 60 offices around the world. Their aim is to build long-term lasting relationships with clients, which is recognised in our research, with clients consistently praising the firm’s “attention to detail” and “quick response times”. The firm receives 19 recommendations across six practice areas, with its strongest showing in our corporate tax chapter.

FLICHY GRANGÉ AVOCATS - PROFESSIONAL NOTICE

Flichy Grangé Avocats is among France’s leading employment and labour law firms, comprising 19 partners, 2 of counsel and 47 associates, all specialised in labour law. The team works closely with HR directors and top management teams to help them anticipate and maximise potential change and ensure effective advice in court. To meet the needs of international groups efficiently, Flichy Grangé Avocats has co-created L&E Global, an integrated employment law alliance, along with premier boutique law firms specialising in employment law (up to 16 worldwide). The firm’s services are directed towards the major French and international groups, employers’ associations and small and medium businesses. Flichy Grangé Avocats is systematically ranked as one of the main specialist in employment and labour law by French and international directories and has moreover been awarded the Gold Trophy in the “International remuneration arrangements and mobility” category, at the 14th Session of the Law Trophies.

Gide Loyrette Nouel

Gide Loyrette Nouel has a longstanding tradition of excellence. The firm can trace its roots back to 1920 when Pierre Gide opened his firm in Paris. Over the years, the firm has expanded and now has 600 lawyers working from 15 offices worldwide. Despite this, Paris remains a hub of activity and lawyers in the office advise major French groups and sector-leading companies, as well as foreign corporations. 

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills’ Paris office is its largest on continental Europe and has a prominent position in high-profile cross-border financial, commercial and corporate transactions that are typical of the firm.  As a key gateway to Francophone Africa, the Paris office is also an engine room for advising clients on the implementation of energy and infrastructure projects in the region. With a reputation for being one of France’s top international business law firms, Herbert Smith Freehills continues to be a leader in the market with 18 listings across 11 different practice areas. 

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells is represented by over 2,500 lawyers across six continents, giving clients almost unparalleled access to international and local knowledge. The firm maintains a strong presence in the French market, important for its position as one of Europe’s primary economic centres and as a legal portal to Francophone Africa. The firm boasts an impressive list of top tier local and international clients including Aéroports de Paris, Iberdrola and many of France’s largest banks. In this edition, Hogan Lovells achieves 23 listings across 13 distinct practice areas. 

Jones Day

Originating from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1893 as Blandin & Rice, the Jones Day we know today took shape from 1939 and has since evolved to become one of the world’s largest law firms with over 2,400 lawyers based in 40 offices around the world. The firm enjoys a “fantastic” reputation for its integrated, client-centric approach that ensures that the full weight of the firm is always behind clients. The firm’s Paris office opened in 1970 and now boasts over 120 lawyers, including 32 partners, who are renowned for their work with banks and financial institutions, private equity, real estate and venture capital funds. In this edition, we feature 17 lawyers from across 12 practice areas.

Linklaters

Established more than 40 years ago, Linklaters' Paris office is one of the most pre-eminent Anglo-Saxon law firms in the country. The firm boasts a distinguished practice group covering all key areas of business law, with an emphasis on complex and innovative matters that are beyond most medium-sized firms. Linklaters’ strength in our research is displayed through its prominent position in 16 of our practice area chapters. In recent news, Arnaud de La Cotardière has begun his second tenure as office managing partner in 2016 and he will be tasked with “maintaining the leading position of Linklaters recognised by its clients and the key players of the French economy”, according to the firm.

White & Case

White & Case is one longest-standing international law firms in Paris, having established its office 90 years ago. The beneficiaries of this established local knowledge include institutional banks, multinationals, governments, start-ups and state-owned entities. The firm’s lawyers are regularly endorsed as among the most skilled in their respective practice areas and often find themselves working on some of the highest-profile transactions and commercial disputes in and out of the country. It thrives in international arbitration, particularly in energy and construction disputes, and for its noteworthy competition and capital markets teams.

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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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