Havas Confirms That a Head of International Operations Is Under Investigation in French Corruption Case

Agency says it's cooperating with authorities

Prosecutors brought preliminary charges against former Havas chairman Vincent Bollore today. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

In a wide release sent to most major news organizations today, Havas announced that it’s cooperating with a French anti-corruption investigation focused on its former chairman, Vincent Bolloré. Agency network partner, 19-year Havas veteran and worldwide director of public affairs for the Havas Horizons subsidiary Jean-Philippe Dorent is under investigation in the same case.

Earlier reports stated that both Dorent and Gilles Alix, CEO of the Bolloré Group, are being investigated for forgery and breach of trust, with Alix also accused of the corruption of foreign officials.

The release read that Havas Group “acknowledges that an employee of one of its subsidiaries in France has been put under formal investigation” on Wednesday, adding that “this employee benefits from the fundamental principle of presumed innocence guaranteed by criminal procedure.”

The note concluded, “The Group will, of course, fully cooperate with the judicial authorities.”

A spokesperson for the global Havas organization later confirmed that Dorent is the individual in question.

The news follows Tuesday’s announcement that Vincent Bolloré had been detained by French authorities less than a week after telling investors that his son Yannick would soon take over his role as chairman of international media conglomerate Vivendi. (Yannick has been global CEO and chairman of Havas Creative Group since summer 2017.)

Authorities initially accused him of bribing officials running for office in the Ivory Coast nations of Togo and Guinea in 2009 and 2010 by charging their campaigns below-market rates for the services of Havas Communications in exchange for “concessions” that benefited Bolloré SA. That company, which is part of the larger Bolloré Group, is the single largest operator of port operations in Africa that ship goods to markets around the world.

Today, French authorities officially brought preliminary charges against the elder Bolloré, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and other publications. In keeping with French law, this means they could still decide to end the investigation if they don’t believe they have enough evidence against him.

Havas’s statement did not specifically address the case against Bolloré, who is no longer directly involved in the network’s operations.

The Bolloré Group, which issued a statement on Tuesday claiming that “former subsidiary SDV Africa did not engage in any illegal actions,” has not yet published an updated press release or responded to Adweek’s request for comment on the preliminary charges against its chairman.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.