On January 28, aerospace company Airbus issued a statement in which it confirmed it “has reached agreement in principle with the French Parquet National Financier, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office and the U.S. authorities,” with regard to investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption and compliance with the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). These agreements “remain subject to approval by French and U.K. courts and [a] U.S. court and regulator[s].”
Bloomberg reported that “according to people familiar with the matter,” a final settlement with the three jurisdictions could be announced as early as this week. Although the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the French Parquet National Financier (PNF) declined to comment, the expected charges, which involve the use of intermediaries in securing jet orders, could result in total penalties of approximately $3 billion.
Investigations of foreign-bribery allegations involving Airbus began in 2016, reportedly after Airbus’s then-Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders ordered an internal investigation and Airbus self-reported to authorities. The SFO initiated its investigation in July 2016, followed by the PNF in 2017 and the Justice Department in 2018.
Note: If these reports are confirmed in the near future, depending on the total amount of the penalties imposed it would represent one of the largest multinational foreign-bribery resolutions involving the United States and other countries, and for the United Kingdom the largest share of any such resolution. That latter aspect of the resolution also would provide a modest but much-needed boost in credibility for the SFO. Since 2017, its successes in concluding Deferred Prosecution Agreements with companies in bribery and fraud investigations, such as Tesco, Sarclad, and Güralp Systems, have far exceeded its successes when prosecuting individuals associated with those companies.