Enforcing compliance Airbus' response to investigations into its use of consultants

Compliance is at the heart of everything Airbus does today – we are putting significant resources and effort into supporting the coordinated criminal investigations by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and France’s Parquet National Financier (PNF).

Statement from the Board of Directors

With respect to various press reports and speculations over the last few days, the Board of Directors of Airbus SE states the following:

  • In 2014 Airbus management suspended outstanding payments to business partners and instigated a rigorous process for review of all payments prior to release.
     
  • The payment review uncovered a number of compliance red flags, including misstatements and omissions to UK government agencies.
     
  • In concert with our values and standards of conduct and our legal responsibilities, the decision was made in 2016 to disclose the identified compliance issues and the surrounding circumstances to government financial oversight and investigation agencies.
     
  • These decisions were made with the Board’s unanimous approval and actions were all directed by Tom Enders, the company's CEO. The Board has full trust and confidence in Tom and depends on his leadership to continue the transformation of the company and in particular our compliance program alongside our General Counsel, John Harrison.
     
  • Our internal investigations continue and we, Board and Management, are committed to expose all instances where violations have occurred and to correct the processes and behaviors that enabled these transgressions. The Ethics and Compliance Committee of the Board, composed of Independent Directors and chaired by me, will ensure the unwavering commitment to ethical conduct and compliant behavior of all employees, and the closure of the identified issues relating to business partners.
     
  • We are doing all this in full and transparent cooperation with the government investigations, led by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the U.K. and the Parquet National Financier (PNF) in France.
     
  • Airbus is a great and highly resilient company with a strong and competent management team. Its strategies, structures and resources have never been more aligned. We have no doubt that the company will persevere, continue its dynamic development and remain competitive and successful in the market place.
     
  • The Board thanks each and everyone in the company who is working hard to help bring this matter to a conclusion and to ensure seamless execution of our business priorities at this challenging time.

 

Denis Ranque
Chairman of the Board

What we are doing

Airbus is committed to implementing the most effective global standards to combat bribery and corruption in its industry.

We prohibit all forms of bribery and corruption and have a dedicated compliance programme and organisation under the leadership of the Airbus General Counsel, who has a seat on the Executive Committee and reports to the Airbus CEO.

We also have appointed an Independent Compliance Review Panel composed of eminent external consultants to help us further improve our processes.

Airbus response

Questions and Answers

What are the SFO and the PNF investigating?

The authorities  are carrying out coordinated investigations into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption within our civil aviation business, relating to our use of third party consultants. The investigations were initiated following self-reporting by Airbus.

How were these investigations triggered?

In 2014, as a precautionary measure, Airbus froze payments to its third party consultants engaged in sales support activities, in order to put them through an enhanced compliance due diligence and screening process. During this process, Airbus discovered misstatements and omissions relating to information provided in certain applications for export credit financing for Airbus customers. 

As a result, Airbus made the decision to “self-report” to the relevant authorities.

What happens next?

Airbus is working closely and cooperating fully with the authorities to investigate the situation. As part of this effort, Airbus has engaged legal, investigative, and forensic accounting expertise of the highest calibre to undertake a comprehensive review. Together, they are using some of the most advanced software tools available to analyse a massive amount of electronic and hard copy documents as part of the investigation.

When will you resume payments to third party consultants?

The company will not unfreeze payment to any third party consultant until it has gone through the enhanced due diligence process described above. As a result, certain consultants and other third parties have initiated commercial litigation and arbitration against Airbus alleging breach of contract and seeking relief.

We cannot exclude that our comprehensive review and enhancements to our controls and practices lead to additional commercial disputes or other civil law consequences in the future.

Do you expect any further allegations or issues to emerge?

Airbus continues to monitor all its activities with regard to ethics and compliance. We will continue to work closely with the authorities during the investigations and will seek to improve internal compliance processes, and if new allegations come to light they will be dealt with appropriately and consistently.

What will happen to those responsible for wrongdoing or misconduct?

Airbus will take appropriate action against those found to have engaged in any wrongdoing or misconduct as the results of the investigation become available.

What steps is Airbus taking to ensure this never happens again?

Airbus continues to revise and implement improved anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures, including those with respect to its engagement of consultants and other third parties. The lessons learned as part of the SFO and the PNF investigations will be fed back into our compliance programme in order to strengthen it for the future. We also have appointed an Independent Compliance Review Panel composed of eminent external consultants to help us further improve our compliance processes, policies, organisation and culture.

Who is in charge of dealing with this situation at Airbus?

John Harrison, Airbus General Counsel, and head of the Legal & Compliance team is leading the upgrade of Airbus’ compliance programme and supporting the authorities with the investigations. He has a seat on the Executive Committee and reports to the Airbus CEO.

Is the Eurofighter investigation related to these investigations?

No. The Eurofighter investigation is not related to the coordinated investigations by the SFO and the PNF. It is a separate historical issue and we cannot see any foundation in particular for the allegations of bad faith and fraud made by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence concerning it.
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Timeline of compliance enforcement

Airbus aims at preventing, detecting and responding to Ethics & Compliance risks.

The evolution of Airbus’ compliance programme has been a long and complex process. It not only covers various businesses across multiple jurisdictions with individual governance and compliance structures, but has also evolved to adapt to organisational changes that the company has implemented over the past years.

Initially set up as EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company), Airbus has managed to reduce organisational complexity over time – from the elimination of the initial co-leadership approach in 2007 through a significant change in the ownership structure in 2013 to the reorganisation and renaming of the Group to 'Airbus' in 2014.

Concerning the compliance programme, changes also started from 2007 onwards with the introduction of an enhanced anti-corruption policy as the company began to unify under a more cohesive corporate governance structure.

The company works continuously towards ensuring that employees act in a compliant manner. In the past three years alone, Airbus has conducted more than 160,000 awareness trainings covering – amongst others – the topics of anti-corruption, fraud, antitrust, export compliance, and confidential information.

Compliance initiatives

The timeline below provides a snapshot of the numerous developments in compliance from 2007 to the present day.

  • From 2001 to 2007, the newly created EADS Group implements numerous compliance policies covering risk areas such as Anti Bribery and Corruption, Export Compliance, Mergers & Acquisitions.

2007

  • Comprehensive compliance review launched for EADS to reinforce a culture of anti-bribery and to protect the company against any legal, financial or reputational risk. This was carried out while selecting business partners and conducting M&A operations or investment projects.


2008

  • EADS and Airbus nominate Chief Compliance Officers reporting to their respective CEOs.
  • Airbus adopts 'Global Principles of Business Ethics' developed by the European and US trade associations.

2009

  • Airbus International Compliance Office develops and implements the 'Airbus Business Ethics Policy and Rules.'
  • Airbus becomes an active participant in a number of forums, such as the United Nations Global Compact and International Forum on Business Ethical Conduct for the Aerospace and Defence Industry, of which Airbus is a co-chair.
  • Cassidian, Astrium and Eurocopter nominate Divisional Chief Compliance Officers.
  • EADS develops an EADS Group-wide Code of Ethics called 'Integrity & Transparency'.

2010

  • EADS OpenLine is launched, enabling employees to confidentially raise their concerns via the internet or by phone.

2011

  • EADS issues Policy for Compliance Allegation Investigation.

2012

  • EADS issues the EADS Business Ethics Anti-Bribery Compliance Guidelines for M&A.
  • EADS Anti-Bribery Compliance Programme is audited by Ethic Intelligence and receives certification.

2013

  • EADS Business Development Policy is updated and renamed into EADS Business Ethics Policy, Processes and Guidelines.
  • EADS replaces its existing Code of Ethics 'Integrity and transparency' and all related documents existing across the EADS Group with one unique reference document called 'Standards of Business Conduct' (SOBC). The SOBC supersede any existing similar documents in all divisions and subsidiaries.
  • 'Our Integrity Principles' (OIP): A reader friendly leaflet summarising the key values of the SOBC. The leaflet is sent to 13,500 managers across the Group, who are required to distribute to their teams and deliver a team talk presentation. Overall, more than 150,000 copies are shipped across the Group to more than 120 destinations.

2014  

  • SOBC and OIP are available in 7 different languages.
  • Airbus Group issues a new Sponsorship and Donation Policy.
  • Airbus Group issues Guidelines for the assessment of corruption risks when selecting a business partner.
  • Airbus Group halts all payments to business partners until they have been cleared under the compliance audit and assessment process described above.

2015   

  • Tom Enders, CEO Airbus Group, nominates John Harrison as Group General Counsel.
  • Airbus Group’s legal and compliance teams merge and work under one banner (Legal & Compliance.)
  • Airbus Group updates its Business Development Support Initiative Directive (BDSI): BDSI defines the Airbus Group requirements for the prevention of corruption in the engagement of business partners. A significant awareness programme is launched. Training is delivered to more than 1,500 risk facing employees across the company over a 6 month period.
  • Sylvie Kandé de Beaupuy is named as Airbus Group Ethics & Compliance Officer.

2016   

  • Airbus Group issues a new Group-wide Anti-Corruption Policy ultimately providing employees with a single and unique reference and guide on its related matters to all employees.
  • In September 2016, Airbus Group updates its BDSI Directive, which builds on the practical experience of the first year after the initial release. It is now more business focused and also adds enhanced compliance controls, particularly related to the payment and monitoring of third parties.
  • In October, Airbus Group updates its Gifts & Hospitality Directive. This Directive now provides a Group-wide harmonised framework for the giving and receiving of gifts & hospitality. It also sets harmonised monetary thresholds above which line management and compliance approval are required prior to exchanging any Gifts or Hospitality with third parties. In addition, it addresses large commercial events organised by Airbus and "delegation visits."
  • A Group-wide Anti-Money Laundering Directive was issued, which provides for standardised Know Your Client and due diligence forms and the appointment of an AML Officer in charge of deploying a companywide process. This directive was distributed in October 2016.

2017

  • Airbus has appointed an Independent Compliance Review Panel composed of eminent external consultants reporting to the Airbus CEO and Board on how to further improve Airbus’ compliance processes, policies, organisation and culture.

Airbus vision for Ethics & Compliance

Our Commitment

It is not only what we do, but how we do it, that wins the trust of our colleagues and stakeholders.

Tom EndersAirbus CEO

Over the years, Airbus has earned the trust of passengers, customers, operators and other stakeholders through the quality and safety of our products. To fully serve our communities and thrive in the future, our commitment to business integrity must be just as robust – this means conducting our business ethically and based on Airbus values, and in compliance with all laws and regulations.

Our goal is to be known as a company with ‘integrity inside’: integrity in its people, partners and suppliers.

The compliance enforcers

The following experienced senior executives and their teams are working to ensure compliance remains front and centre of all business that Airbus does. They are also working closely with the authorities to support its investigations.

The Independent Compliance Review Panel

Airbus appointed an Independent Compliance Review Panel (ICRP) composed of eminent external consultants.

All well-versed in compliance monitoring of large corporations, they have access to all levels of the company and are reporting to the Airbus CEO and Board on how to further improve Airbus’ compliance processes, policies, organisation and culture.

Compliance disclosure, references and key documents

Airbus has been as transparent as possible within the parameters of the ongoing investigation by providing regular updates to stakeholders. The links below lead to press releases and financial statements that cover compliance topics:

Airbus has also ensured that all employees, suppliers and customers are aware of its rigorous compliance requirements with the following key documents below that must be adhered to: