It is a strange showdown that the Council of State will have to arbitrate on Friday, September 23. The highest administrative court was seized by the anti-corruption association Anticor following the refusal of the State to grant it access to the account of the powerful Louis Vuitton Foundation, which bears the museum of the same name. At the heart of the debates, the strange legal notion of the “secrecy of corporate privacy”.
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At the beginning of 2019, the Anticor association, challenged by the cost of construction of the Louis Vuitton Foundation (790 million euros), asked the prefect of the Île-de-France region at the time, Michel Cadot, to communicate the accounts of the LVMH Foundation. But the prefect, in other words the representative of the State, refuses based on an opinion from the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA). These administrative documents in his possession, explains the prefect, are not accessible on behalf of the “privacy secret of the Louis Vuitton Foundation”.
On learning this, Élise Van Beneden, the president of Anticor, falls from her chair. “I was very surprised”, remembers the one who is a lawyer by profession. “It is not at all natural to consider that a company or a legal person in general has a private life, it is a notion which is inherent in the human person. She had never heard of this legal concept. “It’s very disturbing, because the foundation when it receives funds from the companies of the LVMH group, it gives them a tax reductionexplains Elise Van Beneden. That is to say that these companies, they benefit from up to half a billion euros in tax reduction.
“What the foundation does with its money matters to taxpayers since indirectly it is public money that is used.”Élise Van Beneden, President of Anticor
The decision of the Council of State, which will be known in a month, will be scrutinized by many other corporate foundations who, too, believe they have the right to the protection of their privacy. In other words, to the protection of the secrecy of their business.