The perils of the life support economy since the Covid crisis

Public prosecutor Etienne Manteaux wanted to “throw a stone in the pond” by warning of the effects of the suspension of Urssaf appointments on the economic health of companies since the Covid crisis. Anne Barralis, director of Urssaf de Franche-Comté, believes that “this support has helped the companies. »

Usually, the ceremonial return of the commercial court of Besançon is quite silent. But behind the protocol, the figures provided by Pierre-Andre Dubreuil, president of the tribunal responsible for judging failed companies, give a clear picture of the economic health of a territory, in this case the country of the Doubs companies. Montbéliard. But the Covid crisis turned everything upside down. The picture is murky, and it worries various players in the embattled companies.

In March 2020, Covid paralyzed France. To help companies recover from the sudden shutdown, the government is asking Urssaf directors to suspend all recovery measures. Generally, Urssaf contributions are 25% of the company’s expenses. Stopping does not mean eliminating. One day you will have to pay.

Although it was a breath of fresh air for the companies, after nearly three years, the public prosecutor, who defended the interests of society, wanted to highlight the effects of this social debt, which swelled like a rolling snowball on itself. Etienne warns Manteaux: “A ticking time bomb.”

Urssaf’s director does not share this opinion. “Freezing this contribution helped to protect employment and economic activity. At the end of 2022, we have the same number of paid jobs as in 2019,” said Anne Barralis.

In 2021, a year after its contributions were completely frozen, Urssaf is offering a compassionate contribution to companies and self-employed workers. Of the 25,500 employers in Franche-Comté, 7,160 benefit from the formalization plan. These companies can spread their payments to Ursaf over three years. This means 78.87 million euros.

There are 24,620 plans to spread the payment of Urssaf contributions for 58,000 self-employed workers in Franche-Comté, i.e. 158.18 million euros.

In Franche-Comté, Urssaf estimates that around 70% of the amounts of these clearance plans have been settled. 30% is recovered.

The reduction of these payments does not calm the public prosecutor. At the request of the government, Urssaf is not only delaying payment periods, but has also suspended legal proceedings to recover the amounts due.

For Etienne Manteaux, by suspending the summons to the commercial court, Urssaf deprives the court of a warning signal that has so far allowed it to avoid ordering the winding up of companies.

With enough early warning, judges can help a company get out of this situation. Urssaf is the only public creditor to apply to the commercial court. Thus, the prosecutor’s proposal to take assignments from Urssaf is somewhat provocative.

French business leaders tend to declare themselves bankrupt very late. However, this procedure makes it possible to spread debts and thus save companies. In 2022, 115 out of 160 collective actions ended with the cancellation of the court.

Another effect of the suspension of Urssaf designations was that unscrupulous companies using “open space” were allowed to avoid paying their contributions. “This can be compared to unfair competition” says the public prosecutor. Business leaders warned that competitors were charging far less than they were paying. “ Outside behaviors » According to Urssaf’s regional director.

Starting in the summer of 2022, Urssaf began resorting to debt collection measures ranging from friendship to subpoenas. Steps defined by special rules. The commercial court challenge will not take place until March 2023. Currently, 1,570 companies in Franche-Comté have received the final payment notice before being banned by the bailiff.

The picture of the economic health of our region should become clearer in the coming months. The 160 collective proceedings of 2022 do not reflect the normal activity of the commercial court of Besançon. In 2009 it was 313 and in 2019 the pre-Covid reference year was 224. Clerks, volunteer magistrates, bailiffs and other commercial court professionals are in for a particularly busy year in 2023.

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