Let me say first that it is a truly great honor for me to be invited to
speak at the prestigious Annual Conference of the Fordham Competition
Law Institute. On behalf of the French Federation of Insurance Companies,
I wish to express my gratitude to the organizers. This constitutes a
privileged opportunity for the French insurance industry to express its
current concerns about State aids recently given, within the context of the
current financial crisis, to a number of banks and insurance companies in
the U.S. and in the rest of the world.
The French insurance market is the second largest in Europe after the
UK’s, and the fourth largest in the world after the U.S., Britain and Japan.
These concerns are all the more important today, just as the G20 meets in
Pittsburgh to decide on new directions for global financial regulation.
French insurers feel very strongly about the need for sound and fair
competition rules in the insurance market, and have kept a careful watch
in order that all players in the insurance market should actually comply
with these rules. Defense of fair and sound competition has long been a
mainstay of FFSA policy. FFSA has in particular initiated a number of
actions resulting in rulings by French as well as European competition
I. THE SITUATION OF THE FRENCH INSURANCE INDUSTRY
REGARDING STATE AIDS
In the past, French insurance companies have had to face situations
in which players benefited from tax and/or regulatory privileges, chiefly
in the field of complementary health insurance, but also through the
availability of privileged distribution channels. The corresponding aids6
have taken many forms: exclusive rights, exemptions, tax advantages or
subsidies. Such structural restrictions of competition constitute prohibited
State aids in the legal context of the European Union. Thankfully, they
have almost entirely been suppressed.