Airbus has agreed to pay penalties of €3.6 billion ($4 billion) plus interest and costs to French, U.K., and U.S. authorities to end long-running investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption spanning some 16 countries including China, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, and Sri Lanka.
The OEM’s chairman Denis Ranque said the settlements “turn the page on unacceptable business practices from the past,” while CEO Guillaume Faury conceded the agreements represent a “very important milestone” allowing the company to move forward and further grow in a sustainable and responsible way. “The lessons learned enable Airbus to position itself as the trusted and reliable partner we want to be,” he said in a statement on Friday after reaching final agreements with the relevant regulators. Airbus earlier in the week confirmed it was in the process of closing an arrangement with France, the UK, and the U.S.
The penalties include a €2.08 billion payment to the French Parquet National Financier (PNF), €984 million to the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and €526 million to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) in return for a resolution to their investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption. The U.S. also investigated Airbus for inaccurate and misleading filings made with the Department of State (DoS) regarding the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). To end that probe, Airbus agreed to pay the DoS €9 million, of which €4.5 million may go to approved remedial compliance measures.
The UK's SFO became the first to open an investigation in August 2016, after Airbus the reported itself over inaccuracies in its disclosures of the use of middlemen to win contracts. The decision to voluntarily report and cooperate with the authorities was the “right one,” Ranque stressed. “The commitment from the board, and its ethics and compliance committee, to provide full support to the investigation and the implementation of globally recognized compliance standards have paved the way to today’s agreements,” he added. The investigations, however, prevented the re-nomination of Tom Enders as CEO of Airbus last year, who the board thought did not do enough to prevent and weed out bribery practices. Faury has been very vocal from the beginning of this term that he wanted to end the chapter.
Under the terms of the agreements with the UK, France, and the U.S., the SFO, PNF, and DoJ agreed to suspend prosecution of Airbus for a duration of three years. The prosecution will end if Airbus complies with the terms of the agreement throughout the period. The company also committed to strengthening its compliance practices.