11/05/2016: Societe Generale at the French Senate Finance Committee

On 11 May 2016, Societe Generale was heard by the French Senate Finance Committee in the context of its fight against tax evasion and international tax fraud. The hearing of Frédéric Oudéa, Chief Executive Officer, provided an opportunity to show that the perception conveyed by the media through the “Panama Papers” coverage is not an accurate reflection of either the current situation or the policy held by Societe Generale with regards to preventing fraud and fighting against tax evasion.

Ten key points

08/04/2016: The Board of Directors expresses its full support to the Group’s General Management and employees

During its session on April 8th, the Board of Directors discussed, in particular, the information recently published in the media containing accusations against Societe Generale.
The Board of Directors expressed its full support to the Group’s General Management and employees, who are subject to false and misleading attacks. The Board underlines again that, since 2010, the Group has had a Tax Code of Conduct that is fully available to the public. This code, which was approved by the Board of Directors, bans any operation where the purpose would be to act against tax transparency.

Read the press release

07/04/2016: Société Générale brings legal proceedings for defamation

The accusations that Mr Mélenchon and the members of the support committee of Jérôme Kerviel – a man who was convicted several times in succession for forgery and breach of trust – have seen fit to make are not only intolerable and unacceptable for Societe Generale and its 145,000 employees, but also amount to defamation. Societe Generale will not allow such accusations to be made against it and its senior executives and has therefore given instructions for the filing of legal proceedings against Messrs Mélenchon, Koubbi and Kerviel as well as any person who would utter such accusations.

06/04/2016: Interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro

Following the publication of the Panama Papers and last night's broadcast of the Cash Investigation programme on French TV channel France 2, this morning Frédéric Oudéa, Chief Executive Officer of the Group, agreed to an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro. In the interview he replies point by point to the accusations made of Societe Generale regarding the fight against fraud and tax evasion.
READ THE INTERVIEW ON THE FIGARO'S WEBSITE (IN FRENCH)

05/04/2016: Reaction from Societe Generale to the article in Le Monde.

In an article carrying a misleading title with no relation to its content, Le Monde makes use of inconsistent information which gives rise to outrageous misconceptions, harming the image of Societe Generale.

Taken up in the media which are taking part in the “Panama Papers” investigation, this information reflects neither Societe Generale’s activity, nor the policy it has been carrying out for a number of years with regard to the fight against fraud and tax evasion which we reiterated in our press release yesterday (available here).

Within the framework of its private banking activity, Societe Generale provides banking and fiduciary services to asset-holding companies on behalf of its clients. This activity, entirely marginal, is carried out in a transparent manner, respecting the rules in force concerning the fight against fraud and tax evasion. As of today, the number of active structures created via the firm Mossack Fonseca for clients amounts to a few dozen. These companies are managed as totally transparent structures.

In accordance with its policy with regard to the fight against fraud and tax evasion that it has been carrying out for a number of years, Société Générale has proactively reminded its clients of the necessity to comply with the tax regulations of their countries of residence. This has led to requests for the freezing or even closure of accounts when tax compliance could not be confirmed to our satisfaction.

The bank has decided to conduct its private banking activities only in those jurisdictions that have adopted the norm for the automatic exchange of information developed by the OECD, known as the Common Reporting Standard, which enables tax authorities to be aware, in all transparency, of the financial accounts held abroad by their taxpayers, whether these are held directly or via asset-holding companies.

Download the press release

04/04/2016: Societe Generale reaction to « PANAMA PAPERS »

Following the reports in the media ahead of the Cash Investigation programme, Societe Generale would like to provide the following details and repeat the commitments that it has always respected:

  • Concerning its presence in Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCTs) Societe Generale confirms what was said in 2012 in front of the Senate Commission of Enquiry:

“Societe Generale has closed its establishments in the countries which were on this grey list, but also in those which were included on the list of Non-Cooperative States, which, in practice for us, meant Panama. However, we went beyond this and also decided to close our establishments in the states which were qualified as offshore financial centres, meaning, for us, the Philippines and Brunei. We no longer carry out any activities in these two countries and now await the authorization of the local regulator to complete these closures”

At the date the Senate Commission of Enquiry was held, we confirm that Societe Generale no longer held, directly or indirectly, any establishments in operation in the NCCTs. The structures to which the media refer are not held by Societe Generale but by clients. Although French law does not make any restrictions concerning relations with clients who are established in these jurisdictions, Societe Generale is particularly vigilant and for many years has been conducting a proactive policy to ensure that its activities respect the highest standards with regard to the fight against tax fraud and tax avoidance (standards developed by the FATF* and the OECD).

  • Concerning the “information” according to which Societe Generale refused to communicate details about the identity of its clients who held asset-holding companies to the regulatory authorities, the bank vigorously denies this:

To its knowledge, in the specific instance raised by the press, Societe Generale was not approached by a regulator, either directly or indirectly through a third party at the explicit demand of a regulator. Such a request would be all the more improbable since a procedure dedicated to the exchange of information exists: a regulator wanting to obtain information about the identity of a beneficiary of an asset-holding company would get in contact with the regulator in the jurisdiction where the account is held. Societe Generale has always responded positively to demands of this type from its regulatory authorities.

Societe Generale strictly respects all the regulations of the countries in which the Bank is present. In a context in which national and international regulations are being reinforced, in particular tax regulations, we conduct a proactive policy with regard to the fight against fraud and tax avoidance. From 2010, Societe Generale adopted a Tax Code of Conduct (available here) which sets out a clear framework for relations with clients with regard to the fight against fraud and tax evasion. We refuse to participate in operations which would be contrary to these principles, whatever the structure.

In accordance with anti-money laundering standards, Societe Generale is systematically aware of the identity of the beneficial owners of so-called “offshore” companies we are in a relationship with and this information is already available to regulators and relevant legal and tax authorities as set out in international cooperation agreements.

For several years, we have been proactively reminding our clients of the necessity to comply with their tax obligations in their countries of residence. In some instances, this has led us to requesting the freezing or even closure of accounts when tax compliance could not be confirmed to our satisfaction.

The bank has also decided to conduct its private banking activities only in those jurisdictions that have adopted the norm for the automatic exchange of information developed by the OECD, known as the Common Reporting Standard (CRS)**, which enables tax authorities to be aware, in all transparency, of the financial accounts held abroad by their taxpayers, whether these accounts are held direct or via offshore asset-holding companies.

* The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions. The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

** The CRS already applies in Luxembourg, France, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Belgium and the United Kingdom and will come into effect in Switzerland, the Bahamas and Singapore on January 1st, 2017.

Download the press release

04/04/2016: Group position

Societe Generale strictly respects all the regulations of the countries in which the Bank is present. In a context in which national and international regulations are being reinforced, in particular tax regulations, we conduct a proactive policy with regard to the fight against fraud and tax avoidance.

Beyond our legal obligation to publish information about our establishments and their activities in states which are on the French list of Non Cooperative Countries or Territories, the Group decided in 2012 to close its establishments in jurisdictions on the NCCT list, namely in Panama, the Philippines and Brunei. Societe Generale does not have establishments operating in jurisdictions on the NCCT list.

With regard to the banking activities carried out by our clients, from 2010 the Group adopted a Tax Code of Conduct which sets out a clear framework for relations with clients in order to ensure that the highest standards of transparency and tax compliance are respected. The bank has thus decided to carry out its private banking activities exclusively in jurisdictions which have adopted the automatic exchange of information standard drawn up by the OECD, known as the Common Reporting Standard, which demonstrates our firm intention not to take part in operations which aim to contravene tax laws or regulations. This standard aims to enable the tax authorities to be aware of financial accounts held abroad by their taxpayers, whether these accounts are held directly or via offshore wealth companies.

1. What is Societe Generale’s positioning on Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCTs)?
2. What is Societe Generale’s positioning in the fight against fraud & tax evasion?
3. What is Societe Generale’s positioning on asset-holding companies?
4. What is Societe Generale’s positioning on asset-holding companies for which the bank provides administrative management services (fiduciary services)?

 

1. What is Societe Generale’s positioning on Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCTs)?


Since January 1st, 2010, financial institutions in France have been required to publish, in the notes to their financial statements, information on their branches in Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCTs), a list of which was drafted in 2010 and is updated annually by ministerial order.

Societe Generale Group has complied with this requirement by publishing annually a list of its branches located in NCCTs, and has in fact gone beyond its legal obligations by closing its branches in countries listed as NCCTs in 2012, namely in Panama, the Philippines and Brunei.

The British Virgin Islands were added to the NCCT list on January 1st, 2013 but are no longer included on the list as of January 1st, 2015. In accordance with our policy, a Group branch in the British Virgin Islands is in the process of being closed (as indicated in the Registration Document).

It is important to note that the French law does not provide any restriction on relations with clients established in those jurisdictions. However, Societe Generale Group has adopted in 2010 a Tax Code of Conduct which provides with clear guidelines concerning relationships with clients, in terms of fight against fraud and tax evasion.

2. What is Societe Generale’s positioning in the fight against fraud & tax evasion?

Societe Generale conducts an active policy in the fight against fraud and tax evasion. The Group supervises its private banking activities to ensure that they comply with the highest standards in the fight against fraud and tax evasion (as established by FATF* and OECD).

Since 2010, Societe Generale has maintained a Tax Code of Conduct intended for all employees, reminding them of the principles to be followed on tax-related matters, in particular with regard to relationships with clients.

In addition, for several years now, our clients have been routinely informed of changes to tax regulations. We proactively remind them of the necessity to comply with their tax obligations in their countries of residence, and keep them informed of any evolution concerning them if appropriate. In some instances, this has led us to requesting the freezing or even closure of accounts when tax compliance could not be confirmed to our satisfaction. We have thus adopted the latest international standards in the fight against money laundering, including in regard to criminal tax offences, in all of our private banking entities (standards established by the FATF since 2012, and which we are currently being implemented in the jurisdictions where we operate). Our stringent requirements with respect to the tax compliance of the bank's clients also extend to companies for which we provide administrative services (or fiduciary services, see questions below).

Finally, Societe Generale has decided to conduct its private banking activities only in those jurisdictions that have adopted the norm for the automatic exchange of information developed by the OECD, known as the Common Reporting Standard (CRS)**. If it is found that our clients or their beneficial owners, in the case of a company, are residents in a country that is a participating country to the CRS, we undertake to disclose, every year, information to the relevant tax authorities relating to the assets they hold with our bank. The fact that we only carry out our activities in countries that have adopted the highest standards of tax transparency demonstrates our firm determination not to participate in operations that seek to breach tax laws or regulations.

3. What is Societe Generale’s positioning on asset-holding companies?

Societe Generale, through its private banking activities, offer banking services to asset-holding companies. Those companies address various asset management needs such as the safeguarding of assets or the protection of their families.

From an anti-money laundering standpoint, every structure is subject to a thorough analysis, including an investigation of the identity of the beneficial owners of companies and the related origin of the funds. In accordance with anti-money laundering standards, Societe Generale takes account of when such companies are established in high-risk jurisdictions and adapts its level of vigilance accordingly. In any case, as a banking and fiduciary intermediary, we are systematically aware of the identity of the beneficial owners of so-called “offshore” companies we are in a relationship with and this information is already available to regulators and relevant legal and tax authorities as set out in international cooperation agreements.

As a complement, we use the standards of fight against fraud & tax evasion described in the previous question for those asset-holding companies.
 

4. What is Societe Generale’s positioning on asset-holding companies for which the bank provides administrative management services (fiduciary services)?

Societe Generale, through its private banking activities, offer administrative management services besides banking services. This service is mainly dedicated to asset-holding companies.

This administrative management activity is known to regulators and is subject to considerable supervision (as a reminder, see previous question).

From an anti-money laundering and fight against tax & fraud evasion standpoint, the same requirements and controls as those described above apply. In addition, an internal committee ensures that companies for which we provide administrative management services do not breach tax laws and regulations and that the purpose of those companies is not to intentionally seek to prevent the disclosure of information to their relevant tax authorities.

* The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions.  The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
** The CRS already applies in Luxembourg, France, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Belgium and the United Kingdom and will come into effect in Switzerland, the Bahamas and Singapore on January 1st, 2017.