France: La Fin Du Cumul Des Poursuites Et Des Sanctions Administratives Et Pénales En Matière De Manquements Et De Délits D'initiés : Décision Du Conseil Constitutionnel Du 18 Mars 2015

La législation française prévoit une double sanction en matière d'abus de marché qui peut conduire à un cumul des poursuites et des sanctions administratives et pénales. Ainsi les mêmes faits, commis par la même personne, sont susceptibles d'être qualifiés à la fois, sur le plan administratif, de manquement d'initié et, sur le plan pénal, de délit d'initié.

Ce dispositif répressif est toutefois en sursis depuis un arrêt remarqué de la Cour Européenne des Droits de l'Homme du 4 mars 2015 Grande Stevens c/ Italie. En effet, par cet arrêt, la CEDH a condamné l'Etat italien, sur le fondement du principe de non bis in idem, pour le cumul des poursuites et sanctions administratives et pénales en matière d'abus de marché.

Ainsi, alors même qu'elle avait encore récemment validé le principe du cumul des peines, la Cour de cassation a préféré renvoyer au Conseil constitutionnel les 17 décembre 2014 et 28 janvier 2015, des questions prioritaires de constitutionalité (QPC) soutenant que le cumul des sanctions administratives et pénales en matière d'abus de marché méconnaissait :

  • le principe d'égalité devant la loi ;
  • le principe de la nécessité des délits et des peines ;
  • le principe de sûreté ;
  • la présomption d'innocence.

Le Conseil constitutionnel devait donc répondre à la question suivante : la double répression, administrative et pénale, des abus de marché, est-elle conforme aux droits et libertés que la Constitution garantit ?

Dans sa décision du 18 mars 2015, le Conseil constitutionnel a opéré un véritable revirement de jurisprudence en droit français et déclaré le cumul des poursuites et des sanctions administratives et pénales en matière de délit d'initié inconstitutionnel.

Dans sa décision du 18 mars 2015, le Conseil constitutionnel a considéré que les dispositions contestées étaient contraires à la Constitution en ce qu'elles méconnaissaient le principe de nécessité des délits et des peines au sens de l'article 8 de la Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen de 1789.

Ainsi le Conseil constitutionnel a exclu à son tour le cumul des poursuites et des sanctions pénales et administratives en matière d'opérations d'initié, et plus généralement en matière d'abus de marché.

Par ailleurs et afin de ne pas bouleverser le système juridique français, le Conseil constitutionnel a pris soin de moduler dans le temps les effets de sa décision d'inconstitutionnalité.

Ainsi, il a été établi un dispositif transitoire qui diffère au 1er septembre 2016 l'abrogation des dispositions déclarées inconstitutionnelles (c'est-à-dire les textes portant incrimination du délit d'initié et du manquement d'initié ainsi que les diverses dispositions organisant la coordination entre la double répression pénale et administrative), laissant au législateur le temps nécessaire pour réformer le cadre répressif des abus de marché. Entre-temps le cumul des poursuites et des sanctions sera néanmoins paralysé afin qu'aucune action ne puisse être engagée ni poursuivie devant l'AMF ou le juge pénal dans les cas où l'autre autorité aura déjà été saisie.

Les juridictions judiciaires ont d'ailleurs rapidement tiré les conséquences du dispositif transitoire afin d'exclure immédiatement le cumul des poursuites (cf. l'arrêt de la chambre criminelle de la Cour de cassation du 20 mai 2015 et l'arrêt du Tribunal correctionnel de Paris, 11e chambre, 18 mai 2015).

Il convient toutefois de noter que la décision du Conseil constitutionnel a une portée plus restreinte que la jurisprudence de la CEDH.

Tout d'abord, le Conseil constitutionnel ne se fonde pas sur le principe non bis in idem mais sur le principe de nécessité des délits et des peines.

Pour rappel, selon la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel, ce principe implique que :

  • le principe et la nature de la peine doivent être "nécessaires", ce qui signifie que toute alternative moins attentatoire aux droits et libertés doit être préférée si elle permet d'assurer un niveau suffisant de respect de la règle de droit ;
  • la peine doit être "proportionnée" à la gravité du manquement et à ce qui est strictement nécessaire pour assurer la règle de droit.

Le choix du fondement de la décision limite étroitement l'interdiction du cumul des peines. En effet, alors qu'en vertu du principe non bis in idem la CEDH interdit par principe tout cumul de sanctions "punitives" pour des faits substantiellement identiques, le Conseil restreint l'interdiction du cumul en la subordonnant à quatre conditions :

  1. une définition des infractions en des termes identiques ;
  2. la protection des mêmes intérêts sociaux ;
  3. des sanctions de nature identiques ;
  4. une identité d'ordre de juridiction.

Par ailleurs, le Conseil constitutionnel décide de limiter l'interdiction du cumul aux délits et manquements d'initiés. En effet, elle ne met pas obstacle au maintien du cumul des poursuites et sanctions administratives et pénales ou disciplinaires en droit français de manière générale.

On peut toutefois raisonnablement penser que cette décision serait transposable à d'autres délits boursiers tels que la diffusion d'informations fausses ou trompeuses, la manipulation de cours, etc.

Reste la question de savoir comment le législateur réécrira le dispositif des sanctions boursières d'ici le mois de septembre 2016.

A ce titre, l'Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) a publié dès le 19 mai 2015 un rapport d'un groupe de travail intitulé "L'application du principe ne bis in idem dans la répression des abus de marché - Proposition de réforme".

Le rapport de l'AMF fait dans un premier temps un état des lieux de la répression des abus de marché en France sur la base d'une analyse des dossiers traités au cours des 10 dernières années. Le rapport fait ressortir de cette analyse plusieurs points :

  • la rareté du cumul des poursuites et des sanctions administratives et pénales pour les mêmes faits (au cours les 10 dernières années, seuls 17 dossiers sur les 182 transmis par l'AMF au pénal ont donné lieu à une double condamnation pénale) ;
  • la rapidité de la procédure devant l'AMF (délai moyen de procédure de 38 mois contre 78 mois pour la procédure pénale) ;
  • le faible nombre de sanctions pénales effectives (60% des dossiers transmis par l'AMF au parquet n'ont donné lieu à aucune condamnation pénale, les abus de marché font rarement l'objet de peines de privation de liberté et le montant des sanctions pécuniaires prononcées par le juge pénal est très faible).

A la lumière des conclusions exposées, l'AMF propose une orientation de réforme qui va dans le sens d'un rôle accru de sa part dans la répression des abus de marché et de l'attribution d'une compétence résiduelle au juge pénal.

Le rapport propose pour cela plusieurs axes de réforme et notamment :

  1. Inscrire dans la loi, au moyen de l'insertion d'un nouvel article dans le Code monétaire et financier, le principe d'interdiction du cumul des poursuites et des sanctions administratives et pénales afin de se conformer à la jurisprudence de la Cour Européenne des Droits de l'Homme et du Conseil constitutionnel.
  2. Etablir une distinction claire entre les incriminations administratives et pénales en introduisant des critères objectifs de répartition des poursuites administratives et pénales.
  3. Mettre en place une procédure de concertation obligatoire (dite d'"aiguillage") de deux mois entre l'AMF et le procureur de la République financier préalable à l'engagement de poursuites, afin de répartir de manière optimale les dossiers pouvant relever du juge pénal et de l'AMF, avec une priorité donnée à l'AMF.
  4. Aménager la procédure de constitution de partie civile en amont de la concertation entre l'AMF et le parquet financier.
  5. Aménager le procédure pénale afin d'en réduire les délais et d'accroître l'efficacité des sanctions.

Originally published on 24 November 2015

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