Airbus has announced its agreement to pay penalties of €3.6 billion, in what is reported to be the world’s first simultaneous settlement with four national authorities: the French Parquet National Financier (PNF), UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), US Department of Justice (DoJ) and US Department of State (DOS).
The global settlement marks the largest foreign corruption settlement of all time and is part of a Convention Judiciaire d’Intérêt Public (CJIP), Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), and Consent Order allowing Airbus to avoid potential criminal prosecution. The final settlements reached were: PNF €2,083 million, SFO €984 million, DOJ €526 million and DOS €9 million, of which €4.5 million may be used for approved remediation and compliance measures.
FRA has been providing forensic accounting, data governance technology solutions and compliance support to Airbus in an extremely complex multinational investigation that covered more than a dozen jurisdictions. The investigation faced extraordinary hurdles, including the production and examination of tens of millions of documents in multiple languages, and navigating the General Data Protection Regulation as well as the French, German and Spanish blocking statutes and national security laws.
Airbus General Counsel John Harrison said,
FRA’s exceptional team, constant professionalism, and market leading technical expertise proved invaluable in helping us navigate the many challenges we overcame to reach this complex settlement. Their vast experience in previous settlements with the same authorities provided unique insight into the complexities of a multi-jurisdictional investigation and ultimately the global resolution. When it mattered most, we had the best possible forensic advisers.
FRA’s data governance and disclosure strategy utilised artificial intelligence and mobile air-gapped data centers. The team worked closely with Airbus’ legal counsel, comprising several law firms, to design the unified review model which assisted and enhanced the legal review. This strategy was central in providing efficient, accurate and timely disclosure to multiple enforcement agencies. The company’s “exemplary” cooperation and remediation efforts were particularly noted across the various settlement agreements resulting in significant reduction of the penalties, including a 50% reduction of the PNF settlement.
FRA’s fine calculation methodology served as the basis for the global settlement across the four authorities. The robustness and accuracy of this methodology was explicitly noted in the UK judgement.
“FRA’s involvement spans nearly four years providing expertise in forensic investigation, data governance, compliance risk assessment and fine calculation.” Toby Duthie, Founding Partner comments. “It’s been a huge collaborative effort, and a privilege to work with Airbus and its elite team of professionals.”
“Managing day-to-day a fully integrated client service team of 70 professionals across many FRA offices in Europe and the United States was a fantastic challenge and working for Airbus was a real honour.” says Yousr Khalil, FRA Paris Partner leading the forensic investigation.
The FRA Partners assisting Airbus were Toby Duthie, Greg Mason, Yousr Khalil, Rik Workman, Charlie Patrick, Simon Taylor, Rob Mason and Trevor Wiles based across the London and Paris offices. Airbus relied on an expert group of white collar and export control practitioners comprising of Dechert (UK); Clifford Chance (France), August Debouzy (France); as well as Paul Hastings and Arnold & Porter (U.S.).
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