Clifford Chance -This article first appeared in the French daily financial newspaper ‘Les Echos’ on September 2, 2014 based on an interview with Clifford Chance partner Thomas Baudesson and counsel Charles-Henri Boeringer. Thomas and Charles-Henri, together with Karine Huberfeld wrote the second edition of a Practical guide for companies on how to handle search and seizures and police custody” (in French “Guide pratique des visites inopinées, perquisitions et gardes à vue dans l’entreprise” – LexisNexis Editions).
If you’re not prepared for it, a dawn raid can rapidly turn into a state of panic “Open up, we have a search warrant!” What would you do if your company were raided by investigators or regulators? If you’re not prepared then it can have serious and far-reaching consequences for your business.
“One morning, there is a knock on the door of your company. Were you expecting somebody? No, not at all, and yet there are some investigators standing there. Have they the right to enter the premises? Who are they exactly? Do we have to let them take away whatever items they want? These are the questions, along with others, that company lawyers ask themselves when faced with a dawn raid which, by definition, takes everyone by surprise”, says Thomas Baudesson, Partner in Clifford Chance’s Paris office. “And if no-one is prepared for it, the situation may rapidly turn into a general state of panic with potentially serious consequences for the company,” he adds.
“For some years now, raids and other types of searches have become an everyday risk for companies,” says his colleague Charles-Henri Boeringer. “A wide number of regulators – the AMF1, the Competition Authority, the CNIL2 – as well as the URSSAF3 , French Customs, the tax authorities and the works inspectorate
conduct dawn raids. It’s part of economic activity.” But, he says, if nobody knows how to react, at least 15 to 20 minutes will be needed to seek the right information in order to adopt the right attitude – time that companies rarely enjoy in such situations.