Implementing the EU Whistleblowing Directive of 2019, France’s loi n° 2022-401 du 21 mars 2022 visant à améliorer la protection des lanceurs d’alerte provides protections that go beyond the Directive and the protections provided by its predecessor, Law 2016-1691 (“Sapin II” enacted in December 2016), which established the Agence française anticorruption, France’s national anti-corruption agency.
The new law, passed in March 2022, entered into force on September 1, 2022. It redefines “whistleblower” (lanceur d’alerte) as a natural person who, in good faith and without direct compensation, reports information about a crime, potential crime or violation of French, international or European Union laws and regulations. Importantly, it modifies the reporting process required by Sapin II. Under the latter, whistleblowers had to report within their own organization prior to disclosing information outside of the organization, and had to wait for an ill-defined period of time before reporting to the authorities or to the public. Now, whistleblowers may still report internally – and larger companies must establish procedures to facilitate this – but they do not lose their legal protections if they report directly to French authorities. And under certain circumstances such as imminent danger or possible collusion between the authorities and the persons committing the violation, whistleblowers may disclose information directly to the public.
In addition, the new law provides better protection against retaliatory measures, and allows for the provisional payment of legal expenses to whistleblowers who file court actions to remedy harm from retaliatory measures, including reputational damage. Furthermore, good-faith whistleblowers are generally protected against civil and criminal liability, and those who facilitate or support whistleblowers are also protected.