Airbus confirmed Tuesday it has reached a deal with authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to resolve allegations of bribery and corruption that have plagued the European aircraft maker for nearly four years.
Airbus said it “reached an agreement in principle” with U.S. authorities, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and France’s financial prosecutor, Parquet National Financier (PNF). “These agreements are made in the context of investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption, as well as compliance with the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations,” Airbus stated.
The agreement remains subject to approval by courts and authorities in the three countries. Airbus said for legal reasons it “cannot make any comments on the details of its discussions with the investigating authorities.” However, the San Francisco Chronicle, citing people familiar with the matter, reports the deal is “in the range of $3 billion.”
The SFO later confirmed its end of the agreement, noting a public hearing related to the case will be held Friday.
In its 2016 annual report, Airbus disclosed it was facing a series of investigations over bribery allegations in Austria, Greece, Germany, Indonesia, Pakistan, Romania, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, the SFO launched an investigation into Airbus subsidiary GPT concerning a service contract in Saudi Arabia that pre-dated the acquisition by Airbus in 2007.
Airbus further disclosed in 2016 it was under coordinated investigations by the SFO and PNF into allegations of fraud, bribery, and corruption in its civil aviation business relating to self-reported misstatements and omissions concerning third-party consultants. The Department of Justice in 2018 also launched an investigation.
Airbus’ compliance response
In response to these regulatory investigations and commercial disputes, Airbus in its 2016 annual report announced the establishment of an independent review panel to help improve its compliance controls and culture. It also began a complete overhaul of its policies, procedures, and practices, including its ethics and compliance program.
Among the changes, Airbus said it was in the process of revising and implementing improved procedures, including its engagement of third parties, particularly with respect to sales-support activities. Airbus also said at the time it was “conducting enhanced due diligence as a pre-condition for future or continued engagement and to inform decisions on corresponding payments.”
Airbus is not the first major aerospace company to get into hot water over allegations of bribery and corruption. In 2017, British engineering company Rolls-Royce reached an $800 million global resolution with U.S., U.K., and Brazilian authorities concerning a long-running scheme to bribe government officials in exchange for government contracts.