Unquestionably, there is a great and historic affinity between the United States and France, starting with the fact that it was the French fleet that bottled up the British Army at Yorktown, causing us to win our own Revolutionary war. The Marquise de Lafayette was an extremely important part of the American insurgency and is remembered to this day for the part he played in the Revolution.
After those heroic times, the United States adopted the British common law, and became much closer to England commercially as well as legally. Despite the Statue of Liberty, the United States and France drifted apart: the French legal system was the Napoleonic code, and while England became a dominant world power and caused the English language to become worldwide, France and the French language fell behind in importance, in the world of law and commerce.
The events in Paris, with hundreds of people killed by terrorist actions, are indeed an act of war, as defined by their president François Hollande. In understanding the scope of the problem in France, it has to be seen in light of what has amounted to a Muslim invasion of Europe. There are millions of immigrants in Europe — see map — and — estimated – roughly 5 million foreign-born Muslims in France, who mostly have come from the French former colonies of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. They constitute around 8% of the total French population.
Worse yet, the median age of the Muslims is 32 years; the median age of the Christian population is around 42 years. The birth rate among the Muslims is, ob-
viously, much higher than the rest of the French population, so the problems attached to the real difficulties of assimilating them into the overall population are only going to get worse. Even now, there are parts of Paris and Marseille where the police fear to enter.
Fortunately, the situation of the USA is quite different, but I believe these horrific events will cause us to get closer, politically. But in terms of commercial and legal relations: not so fast.
Back to the question of collecting debt in France:
The code Napoleon actually is rather pro-creditor, but mainly pro French creditor. Foreign creditors have to approach the use of the French courts with extreme caution. Since the 1990s, there has been an increasing use of judicial orders of suspension of payments, sometimes for two or three years, to protect French enterprises from foreign creditors. The government of France is very much involved in many of their major companies – these are national champions that are insulated from many commercial and legal threats. They are often subsidized by the government. It is impossible to prove, but our experience over the years has been that the presentation of English language commercial documents tends to predispose the French judiciary against the creditor. From a collection and recovery standpoint, the import of our long-term partners in Paris is critical; intense negotiation and commercial mediation often are the most effective routes to recovery.
Please excuse what looks like shameless self-promotion, but France is a special collection venue — being effective often times is more of an art form than a legal process. It matters who you know, and we know who matters.