Bribery charges against Airbus and its subsequent conviction could have resulted in as much as €200 billion in damages across all divisions, according to analysis by the company.
The airliner manufacturer instead agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution arrangement which will see it pay a $4 billion fine, in a bid to avoid a fraud trial and any changes affecting its workforce.
A probe discovered Airbus failed to prevent bribery in a number of countries following an extensive investigation.
Over 1,750 entities were engaged by Airbus as business partners, third parties used to increase the airframer’s international reach and assist in winning sales contracts. Of these, 110 were the subject of particular concerns.
Conviction could have resulted in discretionary – and, in some states, mandatory – debarment from tendering for public-sector contracts.
“What matters here is not the potential loss of contracts…but the effect this will have on the company financially and on its employees, and the wider effects this will have on innocent third parties,” remarked the president of the UK High Court’s Queen’s Bench Division, Dame Victoria Sharp, regarding the case.
Airbus had examined the value of contracts for which it could be banned from tendering if debarred, the effects of which could last up to 15 years.
This analysis showed that, in the worst case, the total future revenue at risk could exceed €200 billion
Such an extensive financial impact would have put thousands of jobs at risk – at the airframer and its suppliers – across the 15-year timeframe, and would have affected Airbus substantially in terms of market presence given its position as one of the two players in a global commercial aircraft duopoly.
Financial firm Deloitte estimates, in a study commissioned by Airbus, that the indirect impact on the economies of countries including France, Germany, the UK, Spain and the USA could adversely affect their GDP by over €100 billion, said Sharp.
The reduction in competition from Airbus’s absence in public tenders, she added, could also result in additional public spending amounting to “many billions” of euros.