- SFO enters into the largest Deferred Prosecution Agreement so far, with $1.1 billion being paid to the UK.
- The agreement is part of a wider $4 billion global resolution.
- 50 percent reduction to the UK financial penalty to reflect “exemplary cooperation.”
- It is clear, in case there was any doubt, that whether ABAC procedures are "adequate" is a question of substance, not form.
On Friday, January 31, anti-corruption authorities in France, the UK, and the United States announced penalties totalling 3.6 billion Euros against Airbus SE. In the world of anti-corruption law this is an historic case, and not just because of the money involved. A link to the SFO press release, statement of facts, and judgment is provided at sfo.gov.uk.
Not all of the details have become public, but we know enough to give some “points forts,” as we are sure will be said in Paris.
Following the money
Aircraft are expensive and purchases can run into the billions. So in a case of serious misconduct, connected to numerous contracts, then the only credible penalty will be on a huge scale. Cases can be hard to compare due to variables such as currency and costs regimes, but suffice it to say that the total payable by Airbus is the highest on record, surpassing behemoths such as the Odebrecht and Petrobras cases.
Airbus is a European company with its main base of operations in Toulouse. It seems fitting that France gets the lion’s share of the fines. Slightly over €2 billion will go to the Parquet National Financier (PNF), pursuant to a Convention judiciaire d'intérêt public, ("CJIP")”, which is the equivalent of a UK Deferred Prosecution Agreement or DPA.
The UK comes next, with a penalty of €991 million being approved by a senior judge. This is pursuant to a DPA between the company and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The figure is the largest under the DPA regime so far. The SFO and other UK agencies such as the export finance authority can take considerable credit for initiating the investigation and involving other international agencies.
The U.S. is to receive €525 million, by reason of a DPA and/or civil settlements. Even this “smaller” amount puts Airbus among the all-time largest resolutions related to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (although about half this amount was related to breaches of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)1 statute rather than FCPA per se).