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Our latest news
The valuation date of social security contributions based on BSAs: a reversal of case law.
Redeemable share subscription warrants (bons de souscription d’actions « BSA ») enable excutive managers to buy shares from their company at a predefined price under conditions, such as the length of time they have to be retained or employed by the company.
Eventually, BSAs can either executed, enabling the employee to become the owner of the share, or be sold.
The Cour de cassation already ruled that BSAs can constitute an advantage which need to be subjected to social security contributions:
- when the BSAs are offered in return for or in connection with work
- On preferential terms
Hence, the following question emerges: How to and when to value BSAs for the purpose of calculating social security contributions?
By a judgment of the 4th of April 2019, the Cour de cassation ruled that the date to take into consideration was the date on which the BSAs were executable by the employee, i.e., the end of the “vesting” period.
The Cour de cassation overturned its position and ruled in a judgment of the 28th of September 2023, that the advantage must be valued on the date of execution or sale of the BSA.
It rules that social contributions must be based on either:
- The savings made by the beneficiary who, thanks to the BSA, acquires shares at a lower price than the market price
- The gain obtained by reselling the BSA at a higher price than that at which it was acquired.
While this solution makes it possible to determine the most accurate basis for social security contributions, in our view it raises a large number of questions when the BSA is issued or sold by a holder who is no longer an employee of the company.
Evocation of the Chinon PDO – invalidity of the trademark
The EU designation of the International Registration No. 1 551 761, consisting of the word "SHINON" with two Chinese characters underneath, must be cancelled for “wines” insofar as it infringes the “Chinon” PDO.
Unsurprisingly, and following an analysis of the goods and signs, the EUIPO Cancellation Division considers that the International Registration is an evocation of the “Chinon” PDO.
The EUIPO found that there was an identity between the goods at issue designated by the trademark and those for which the PDO is protected.
Visually and phonetically, the two terms are also very similar given that the relevant European public will only pronounce the Latin terms. This assumption is reinforced by the evidence submitted by the IR holder, i.e. the label of the bottle of wine on which the trademark is depicted. On this label, the Chinese characters are difficult to perceive because of their silver colour on a white background.
It should be noted that the wine seems to have been produced for only one vintage, in 2017, on a Californian estate in Napa Valley, a long way from Indre-et-Loire.
The Council of the EU adopts its position on a proposal for a directive that aligns penalties for violation of EU sanctions
The enforcement of EU sanctions is a member state responsibility and varies from one member state to another. Indeed, in some member states, infringement of the EU sanctions is a criminal offence punishable by prison sentences of between 2 and 12 years maximum, while in others states, only administrative sanctions can apply.
On December 2, 2022 the Commission submitted a proposal for a directive on the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU restrictive measures.
The aim of this directive proposal is to align penalties for breaches of EU sanctions, in order to tighten the enforcement of the EU sanctions and to limit their circumvention.
On June 9, the Council adopted its negotiating position (general approach) on this proposal for a directive.
The draft law defines the conduct Member States will have to consider as criminal offences, which include (i) assisting persons subject to EU sanctions to circumvent an EU travel ban, (ii) trading sanctioned goods, or (iii) running transactions with states or entities subject to EU restrictive measures.
In addition, Member States are expected to update their legislation so that aggravating circumstances can be taken into account when determining the penalty (i.e. offence committed by a public official).
Member States will also have to provide for a limitation period that allows for proper law enforcement, take measures to freeze and confiscate the proceeds of the violation of restrictive measures, and guarantee cooperation between its various law enforcement and judicial authorities at national and European level.
The Council's general approach will be the basis for negotiations with the European Parliament to reach a common position on the draft directive.
Not all queens are entitled to the title
Can a fancy dress design be declared invalid on the basis of another dress inspired by the same fictional character and previously marketed on an online platform?
On June 8, 2023, the Invalidity Division of the EUIPO answered in the affirmative, pointing out the lack of individual character of the registered design on the basis of Article 6 of the Community Design Regulation (CDR).
Pursuant to this Article, a design has individual character when it produces an overall impression on the informed user that differs from the one produced by a previously disclosed design.
The assessment of individual character factors the designer’s degree of freedom in developing his/her design, which itself influences the importance given to the differences between two designs. In the case at stake, the Office points out that the fact that the intended purpose of a product requires the presence of certain features does not automatically imply a limitation of the designer’s freedom
Fancy dresses mainly aim to imitate a particular person from a film or story, but this constraint alone is not sufficient to consider that the dress designer’s degree of freedom is restricted.
Therefore, the minor differences, relating to the shape of the cape and the intensity of the shade of blue, which exist between the two dress designs imitating the outfit of the character Elsa in the animated feature film "Frozen" are insufficient to characterise a different overall impression.
In the absence of an individual character, the design is invalid.
Finally, it is interesting to note that the Office based its decision on Article 6 CDR (individual character) and not Article 5 CDR (novelty) insofar as the back of the fancy dress sold on Amazon is not visible and the comparison between the two designs cannot therefore be complete.
This decision may be appealed within 2 months.
Adoption by the European Parliament of the Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence (CSDD).
On 23 February 2022, the European Commission submitted to the European Parliament and the Council a proposal for a directive on corporate sustainability due diligence. The aim of this proposal is to oblige certain companies to integrate human rights and environmental impacts into their governance.
In November 2022, the Council adopted a position on the proposed directive.
On 1 June, the European Parliament adopted a common position on the proposed Directive CSDD.
Under the text voted by the Parliament, the Directive will apply to all (including financial services) EU-based companies with more than 250 employees and a worldwide turnover exceeding €40 million, parent companies employing over 500 employees and with a worldwide turnover exceeding €150 million, and non-EU based companies with a worldwide turnover higher than €150 million if at least €40 million are generated within the EU.
Companies subject to the legislation will be required to identify and mitigate negative impacts on human rights and the environment arising from their activities, and to monitor and assess the negative impacts of their value-chain partners (suppliers, sale, distribution, transport, etc.).
Companies will also have to implement a transition plan to limit global warming to 1.5°. For companies employing more than 1,000 employees, failure to meet the objectives of the plan could affect the remuneration of their directors.
The penalties in case of breach of the obligations resulting from de the Directive CSDD can include fines amounting to a minimum of 5% of the company’s net worldwide turnover, and, in certain circumstances, a ban on public procurement within the EU for non-EU based companies.
Therefore, the Directive adopted by Parliament goes further than the French law on the "devoir de vigilance", which covers a more restricted scope of companies and does not provide for fines.
According to the text adopted by Parliament, companies subject to the legislation will have 3 to 4 years, depending on their size, to implement their obligations under the Directive.
The text of the Directive is not final yet. The Parliament, the Council and the Commission still have to negotiate the final draft of the text.
Once adopted, the directive will complete the corpus of European legislation on protection of human rights and the environment: the regulation on deforestation, the conflict minerals regulation and the draft regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market .
The French Anti-Corruption Agency publishes a Compendium of practical information on indexes for measuring a geographical area's exposure to the risk of corruption.
The Sapin 2 Law requires the managers of companies with more than 500 employees and a turnover greater than €100 million, as well as their subsidiaries and managers, to implement measures to prevent and detect breaches of probity in France or abroad.
This anti-corruption compliance system shall include, among other measures:
a regularly updated risk map designed to identify, analyze and prioritize the risks of the company's exposure to external corruption-related solicitations, based among other criteria on the geographical areas in which the company operates;
procedures for assessing the situation of clients, first-tier suppliers and intermediaries with regard to risk mapping.
These two measures therefore require knowledge of the risk of committing acts of corruption inherent in each geographical area.
Geographical location is not the only factor in assessing the risk of corruption, but it is nonetheless a central criterion.
In this context, the AFA published a compendium of indexes elaborated by international organizations, governments, financial institutions, private entities, NGOs...
The AFA refers to two categories of indexes:
indexes measuring the risk of corruption in a given geographical area;
indexes which, while not all having the primary objective of assessing the risk of corruption, integrate this risk.
In addition to these indexes, the AFA lists a number of documentary resources useful for assessing the risk of corruption:
state evaluation reports on the risk of corruption drawn up by international organizations (UN, OECD...), academic institutions or leading NGOs;
additional tools (list of non-cooperative states and territories, list of individuals and states subject to international sanctions, etc.).
Although they do not constitute a "turnkey" tool for establishing a risk map or assessing the situation of third parties in relation with the organization, these indexes and documentary resources contribute to the assessment of a geographical area's exposure to the risk of corruption.
Isn't it time to review your risk map and submit it to our Probity team's stress test?
Publication, par l’Agence Française Anti-corruption, de ses résultats d'enquête statistique sur la prévention et la détection des atteintes à la probité au sein des secteurs fondatif et associatif
En janvier 2022, l’AFA rendait public son Guide pratique intitulé « Maîtriser le risque d’atteinte à la probité au sein des associations et fondations reconnues d’utilité publique - Bonnes pratiques relatives à la gouvernance et la gestion du don ».
Le 25 mai 2023, l’AFA a publié les résultats de son enquête statistique sur la prévention et la détection des atteintes à la probité au sein des secteurs fondatif et associatif.
Une enquête élargie...
Pour rappel, en application de l’article 3 de la Loi Sapin 2, les associations et fondations reconnues d'utilité publique doivent mettre en œuvre des procédures pour prévenir et détecter les faits de corruption, de trafic d'influence, de concussion, de prise illégale d'intérêt, de détournement de fonds publics et de favoritisme ; à charge pour l’AFA d’en contrôler la qualité et l’efficacité.
Pour autant, l’enquête statistique de l’AFA ne s’est pas limitée aux seules associations et fondations reconnues d'utilité publique, mais a été étendue à l’ensemble du secteur associatif et fondatif.
En préambule de son rapport, l’AFA explique que de nombreuses associations/fondations, bien que non soumises aux dispositions de la Loi Sapin 2, manient des fonds publics et à ce titre sont exposées au risque d’infractions d’atteinte à la probité.
Au total, 575 organisations ont répondu à deux questionnaires :
- l’un concernait les ARUP, les fédérations sportives, toutes les sortes de fondation (FRUP, d’entreprise, de coopération scientifique, partenariale, …) et les fonds de dotation ;
- l’autre concernait toutes les associations (hors ARUP) en privilégiant celles recevant des subventions publiques ou faisant appel à la générosité du public.
Peut mieux faire!
A la suite de son enquête, l’AFA dresse un bilan en demi-teinte de la mise en œuvre des mesures anticorruption au sein des secteurs associatif et fondatif : « Si les associations et fondations n’ont pas encore pleinement intégré le risque corruptif dans leur gestion au quotidien, l’enquête menée en 2022 par l’AFA démontre que ces organisations ne sont pas totalement inactives en la matière, même si ce n’est pas toujours intentionnel ».
L’AFA conclut (prévient ?) « Il ne reste plus aux organisations qu’à se saisir de ces constats et de l’ensemble de la documentation mise à disposition par l’AFA pour que 2023 devienne un tournant dans la lutte anticorruption pour les secteurs fondatif et associatif ».
A bon entendeur…
Manque de maturité
Tout d’abord, le rapport présente les résultats concernant les organisations soumises au contrôle de l’AFA et le secteur fondatif (1er questionnaire) :
- 75 % des 213 organisations qui ont répondu sont des ARUP ou des FRUP ;
- 47,4 % des répondants déclarent n’avoir mis en place aucune mesure pour prévenir et détecter spécifiquement les atteintes à la probité́ ;
- 19,2 % ont mis en place un dispositif anticorruption formalisé ou s’apprêtent à le faire ;
- 33,3 % ont adopté́ certaines mesures anticorruptions ou sont en train de le faire ;
Pour ces organisations, le coefficient de mise en œuvre révèle une maturité assez faible en matière d’anticorruption :
- 23,9 % des répondants ne mettent réellement en œuvre aucune mesure ;
- 57,3 % des répondant appartiennent à la classe « faible mise en œuvre » (mise en œuvre au mieux de 40 % des mesures anticorruption recommandées par l’AFA).
Ensuite, concernant le secteur associatif hors ARUP (2cnd questionnaire), le coefficient de mise en œuvre des mesures anticorruption démontre également une maturité encore assez faible, mais dans une proportion nettement plus significative : 84,3 % des répondants mettent en place moins de 10 % des mesures anticorruption utiles au regard de leur profil de risque.
Vos besoins, nos réponses:
Les organismes à but non lucratif sont exposés au risque de corruption au même titre que les acteurs du secteur marchand.
L’équipe Probité de Guillemin Flichy connaît particulièrement bien les secteurs associatif et fondatif, que nous accompagnons depuis de nombreuses années.
Diagnostiquer l’exposition au risque, concevoir des dispositifs anticorruptions sur mesure et compatibles avec l’ADN de votre association ou de votre fondation, former les administrateurs et dirigeants, moderniser la gouvernance à l’aune des nouveaux standards…Autant de solutions que notre équipe est en mesure de vous apporter.
Golden hello : the clause on the reimbursement of the welcome bonus in case of resignation is valid
The golden hello, or welcome bonus, is a practice which consists in paying a bonus to the newly hired employee, in order to encourage him to join his new employer and to build up the employee's loyalty over time.
In practice, the mechanism is as follows: the employee receives the full bonus upon arrival, but it is generally provided that if the employee resigns before a certain deadline, he or she will have to repay the bonus in proportion to the time not spent in the company.
The question raised was therefore the following : does the golden hello reimbursement clause infringe on the employee's fundamental freedom to work?
The employee's reasoning, validated by the Paris Court of Appeal, was that this reimbursement clause had the effect of setting a cost to the resignation, and therefore infringed his freedom to resign.
The French Cour de Cassation (May 5, 2023, No. 21-25.136) overturned this argument, ruling that :
- The purpose of the welcome bonus was to secure the loyalty of the employee in order to ensure his long-term collaboration.
By referring to good faith and to article 1134 of the Civil Code (now articles 1103 and 1104 of the Civil Code), the Cour de Cassation implicitly indicates that the employee had agreed to the conditions of acquisition of this bonus, the purpose of which he knew.
- The welcome bonus is independent of the employee's remuneration, which is not affected by the resignation.
Consequently, and without infringing on the employee's fundamental rights, the employer can demand the reimbursement of the bonus in proportion to the time not spent in the company.
Conversely, it does not seem allowed to ask for the reimbursement of the entire golden hello if the employee resigns before the fixed deadline.
- The valuation date of social security contributions based on BSAs: a reversal of case law. 20/10/2023
- Evocation of the Chinon PDO – invalidity of the trademark 19/09/2023
- The Council of the EU adopts its position on a proposal for a directive that aligns penalties for violation of EU sanctions 22/06/2023
- Not all queens are entitled to the title 20/06/2023
- Adoption by the European Parliament of the Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence (CSDD). 13/06/2023
- The French Anti-Corruption Agency publishes a Compendium of practical information on indexes for measuring a geographical area's exposure to the risk of corruption. 08/06/2023
- Publication, par l’Agence Française Anti-corruption, de ses résultats d'enquête statistique sur la prévention et la détection des atteintes à la probité au sein des secteurs fondatif et associatif 06/06/2023
- Golden hello : the clause on the reimbursement of the welcome bonus in case of resignation is valid 23/05/2023