Original article (in French) : Décideurs – Le droit pénal bien ficelé de Navacelle
Tailor made financial crime defense by Navacelle
At only 36, Stéphane de Navacelle has built his own criminal defense law firm, revealing the efficiency of his positioning. As a matter of fact, this lawyer, from the first year of his career, was involved in high-profile cases, particularly in anti-corruption matters.
Stéphane de Navacelle became acquainted with international criminal investigations immediately after his LL.M. at the University of Chicago. At the time, he met a former General Prosecutor with whom he “negotiated agreements” in the American way, these “justice deals” little known to French culture. Thanks to him, he joined Debevoise & Plimpton, a high-end law firm which chose to follow the development of criminal prosecutions by American authorities after September 11, 2001 by positioning itself to service major international litigations.
Two business cards
With the “European” label, the young Frenchman joined a growing team and dived into U.S. authorities’ investigations conducted into foreign companies. When the firm decided to set up a team in Europe to address criminal issues faced by international companies, he was sent to London, “more convenient than France in terms of data security”, he noted. He thereafter returned to France and worked on cases coming from the U.S. He then focused on matters of important U.S. and European groups, like Siemens and EADS.
Stéphane de Navacelle then had two business cards: one for clients, stamped with the Debevoise name, the other for judges, more conventional. To handle his cases, the firm called then renowned criminal law colleagues, former Bâtonniers and prominent litigators. “I had intensive courses on advocacy and criminal procedure with the greatest people”, Stéphane de Navacelle recalled. He worked “the American way”, with “discipline and stewardship”, weaving his network throughout the courthouse in the shadow of Jean-René Farthouat and Jean-Yves Le Borgne.
A chameleon effect
Starting his own firm in June 2010 was genuine risk-taking for Stéphane de Navacelle who just resigned from a firm offering very little chances of making him partner. Fortunately, he began with two important criminal cases on insider trading and industrial damages. His personality would shape his reputation. “My business model? Kindness”, he answered with a smile. He thereby followed the teachings of an American professor: “When someone yells at you, it is seldom against you, but merely to yell”, he explained, convinced that easing tensions generally helps breaking deadlocks. Immersed in a double French-American culture, Stéphane de Navacelle is like a chameleon. He also benefits from the strength of the Debevoise network, “as many former associates have founded their own firm on the other side of the Atlantic, constituting as many potential partners” he added.
Stéphane de Navacelle maintains this network through a commitment to the ABA, the American Bar Association, and its overreaching group of lawyers, general counsels, and prosecutors. This was illustrated live when a new client rang at the door. “A Panamanian referred to me by a lawyer who heard me at a conference. Who exactly? I do not know” Stéphane de Navacelle concedes. “Most of our cases are referred by other lawyers” the founder explained, well-aware of the efficiency of his positioning. At the given address, it is impossible to find the offices of the law firm Navacelle: the team assists banks and companies’ top executives being criminally prosecuted, all eager for confidentiality…
Reform of economic justice
Now identified as a reference, he works with the Institute for Higher Studies on Justice (IHEJ), alongside with judges, general counsel of major French groups and professors on proposals for reforming economic justice in France. As an elected member of the Paris Bar Council since December, he combines this public commitment with a complete discretion. An essential quality for the one who intervened before the American Department of Justice during prosecutions of European manufacturers and financial institutions in FCPA-related matters or cases of Libor and Forex manipulation. To this end, Navacelle law firm brings together five attorneys, all committed to the criminal defense of their clients. Sandrine dos Santos knows justice mechanisms for having worked with the Public Prosecutor for three years. Julie Zorrilla worked at the Ministry of the Economy and at the Paris Court of Appeal. Finally, Guillaume Soubiran and Matthieu Bagard are junior associates. They all are trained according to Navacelle culture. Motivated by the promise of an exclusively organic growth, the four lawyers form the quartet chosen by a founder preparing for the future.