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Grégoire Mangeat (MANGEAT): "The cultural change in favor of speaking up has resulted in a larger spectrum of challenges"
The founder of Geneva-based law firm MANGEAT talks to us about Swiss compliance programs, how the firm uses technology, and changes and challenges in the years ahead.
Leaders League: MANGEAT has recently extended its practice areas to include risk management and compliance. What are the recent trends in the world of compliance, especially compliance programs in Switzerland?
Grégoire Mangeat: Companies are required to comply with laws and regulations in all jurisdictions where they conduct business. They operate in a complex, evolving legal and regulatory environment that requires them to reconsider their corporate culture (e.g. the tone at and from the top) and their ethics, compliance programs and related policies (e.g. gifts and entertainment, corruption and anti-bribery, donations, conflict of interests), to strengthen their audit and monitoring processes.
Compliance programs have been essential in Swiss banks for some time. For other companies, the maturity of compliance programs in Switzerland is not yet comparable to those in other jurisdictions like the USA, the UK or France. Nonetheless, Swiss companies, especially those that are part of multinational groups or operate in regulated sectors, have an increasing awareness of ethics, compliance and governance due to the increased regulatory scrutiny.
The cultural change in favor of speaking up and listening has resulted in a larger spectrum of challenges and the need for certain companies to conduct internal investigations triggered, for instance, by wrongdoing, workplace grievances, complaints, or regulatory enforcement action.
Clients need strategic, multi-disciplinary advice in managing the complexities of establishing a compliance program, conducting a legal and effective investigation, and the remediation process.Doing business right shall ultimately help mitigate any unwanted liability, financial and reputational damages to the company.
Could you walk us through three of the most interesting cases the firm has handled in the last year or two?
We are assisting the Chairman of beIN Media Group and of the football club Paris Saint-Germain in criminal proceedings opened in March 2017 by the Federal Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Despite the abandonment of all initial charges, the Federal OAG decided to send our client to trial on a new charge, brought for the first time in December 2019. Our client was accused of incitement to disloyal management regarding the 2026 and 2030 FIFA World Cup broadcasting rights. We considered that the new charge was unsubstantiated. We have therefore pleaded for a full acquittal of our client before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, and subsequently obtained such full acquittal in October 2020. The matter is currently pending appeal.
"We are assisting the Chairman of beIN Media Group and of the football club Paris Saint-Germain in criminal proceedings opened in March 2017 by the Federal Office of the Attorney General"
Since September 2018, we have represented a member of the Geneva Canton State Council in criminal proceedings opened against him by the Geneva OAG for acceptance of an undue advantage. In January 2019, the criminal investigation was extended to the private funding of two of the client’s election campaigns in 2012 and 2018, which the Geneva OAG suspected to qualify as acceptance of an undue advantage. This extension raised very significant questions about the broader issue of political financing. Due to the client being a government official, the case provoked a major political crisis in Geneva.
In June 2020, the Geneva OAG informed the parties that the investigation was terminated and that it was going to abandon the proceedings related to the financing of the client’s political campaigns, but referred the case to trial in relation to the acceptance of an undue advantage. A trial date has been scheduled for February 2021.
We also represent a former subordinate relationship manager at a major Swiss bank caught in a criminal investigation into the bank led by the Federal OAG for over a decade. More specifically, our client is accused of aggravated money laundering, while the bank is accused of inadequate organization as per Article 102 of the Swiss Criminal Code. The proceedings have now entered a final phase further to the final hearings of our client in the course of 2020 and our client’s formal indictment in December the same year. Four of the initial twelve accused will be brought to trial before the Swiss Criminal Court in Bellinzona in 2021.
Your team comprises lawyers who speak multiple languages – French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Teochew – and are well versed in cross-border work. Do you have much of a sense of how regulatory environments vary across the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland?
We are fortunate to have a talented team of multilingual lawyers who have trained and qualified in Switzerland and abroad. Our team regularly assists our domestic and international clients in cross-border proceedings, and we are constantly collaborating with law firms and practitioners in other jurisdictions, including those that you cited. This allows us to stay apprised of the latest trends and changes affecting the practice of financial crime and investigations abroad, and to continue learning about each country’s specific approach. For instance, we have recently strengthened and diversified our team (e.g. by hiring seasoned lawyers with international and in-house experience) and our network of white-collar crime and compliance practitioners by extending to other jurisdictions such as Turkey and Spain.
How is technology changing the practice of white-collar crime work in the wider market?
There are common objectives and expectations to be cost-effective and enable faster turnaround times in reviewing larger amounts of data, facts and documents. Law firms have to smartly select the relevant tools and technologies and tailor their use to their operating environment and clients’ profiles.
Although AI-based technology shall become an enabler in scaling complex matters, it will not replace the experience of the practitioner who understands and can interpret the overlaps, the unwritten background information of a matter and the client’s unpredictable behavior, and who most importantly can set up and execute a strategy.
How, specifically, does MANGEAT use technology innovatively in its white-collar crime work?
Like other law firms, we have started to explore technology and tools available on the market through technology providers. Our objective is to meet our clients’ needs in offering effective and efficient review and targeted analysis of large volumes of data and documents in litigation and forensic investigations.
We have introduced legal project management led by a former in-house counsel who is experienced in driving multi-jurisdictional and complex matters. This represents a cultural shift in the way lawyers have been practicing litigation in our jurisdiction and at law firms of small and medium sizes. This shall further foster cross-practice teamwork through a coordinated and systematic approach that is paramount in handling efficiently the life cycle of any critical matter.
What changes and challenges do you foresee for white-collar crime work in the coming years?
In this accelerating information era, certain causes do not escape media and social media attention. Instead of shying away, we care about our clients’ reputational risks and help them navigate each crisis. In litigation cases that are subject to media scrutiny, we also assist our clients in their communication strategy and resort to social media to communicate publicly when the situation requires it.
We have also observed challenges in the areas of mutual legal assistance and extradition, where the fight against terrorism sometimes allows a lack of judicial control.
Finally, we anticipate that the complexity and length of prosecuting financial crimes may force corporations to search for financial funding to sustain their claim actions.
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