Décision de justice

The annual accounts of a corporate foundation that does not receive public subsidies need not be disclosed

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Under the law, public authorities are prohibited from disclosing documents to third parties when such disclosure would violate privacy. The Conseil d’État has ruled that privacy does not apply only to natural persons, but also to legal entities, particularly non-profit organisations, and also relates to documents about their internal operation and financial situation. This is so unless the law provides for an exemption from the prohibition. As regards corporate foundations, law-makers have obliged the governmental agencies that hold their budget and accounts to disclose them to parties requesting them only if the foundations receive public subsidies. This is not the case for the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Under applicable law, therefore, its accounts may not be disclosed to third parties.

The voluntary anti-corruption organisation, Anticor, asked the administrative court of Paris to order the Prefect of Paris and the Ile-de-France region to disclose the annual accounts of the Louis Vuitton Foundation for 2016 and 2017 to it1. Following a refusal by the administrative court2, the organisation took the matter to the Conseil d’État. Today, the Conseil d’État upheld the ruling of the administrative court of Paris.

Under the French Code of Relations between the Public and Government Agencies, documents produced or received by such agencies are considered to be government documents and may, therefore, be disclosed to those who ask for them. This is the case for the documents that a legal entity under private law (company, foundation, voluntary organisation, etc.) is required to submit to the authorities for inspection, when that is provided for by law. However, the law provides for a number of exemptions from that right to information; in particular, documents whose disclosure would violate privacy may not be disclosed to third parties.

Confirming and explaining its earlier jurisprudence3, the Conseil d’État found that these privacy provisions apply to legal entities under private law and exclude in principle4 the disclosure to third parties of documents that particularly relate to their internal operation and financial position unless that is required or implied by other provisions.

Corporate foundations, which are not commercial companies but non-profit organisations, are required to submit an activity report to the Prefect every year, along with the auditors’ report and the annual accounts. Once they have been received by the Prefect, these documents are thus considered to be government documents. However, they are covered by privacy laws, since they relate to the foundation's internal operation and financial position. The law only makes an exemption for corporate foundations that receive public subsidies, where any requester seeking disclosure is entitled to it.

Under current law, the disclosure of the accounts of a corporate foundation that does not receive public subsidies is not, therefore, required.

The 2016 and 2017 annual accounts of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which is acknowledged not have received any public subsidy during that period, do not, therefore, have to be disclosed to the organisation.

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1 Decision of the Prefect of Paris and the Ile-de-France region of 29 January 2019
2 Ruling No. 1910687/5-3 of 17 June 2020
3 Ruling No. 344924 of 17 April 2013, Ministry for Labour, Employment and Health vs Cabinet de La Taille
4 This is true for commercial companies.