SFO v Airbus (2020)

On 31 January 2020, Dame Victoria Sharp PQBD gave final public approval to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (‘DPA’) between the Serious Fraud Office and Airbus SE, relating to historic failures to prevent bribery and corruption offences in multiple jurisdictions over the period 2011 to 2015. Ben FitzGerald acted for Airbus; Katherine Buckle represented the SFO.

Under the terms of the agreement, Airbus is required to pay a financial sanction of just under €1bn, making it by far the largest DPA in terms of its financial effect. The settlement brings to a close the SFO’s investigation into Airbus and its controlled subsidiaries other than the SFO’s separate investigation into GPT (Special Project Management) Ltd, and the SFO has indicated that it has no intention of conducting any further investigation or prosecution of Airbus (other than the GPT case) for the matters disclosed to it by Airbus in the course of the company’s extensive cooperation with the authority. The agreement leaves open the possibility of the prosecution of individuals in due course. 

The UK DPA forms part of a wider global coordinated resolution of investigations into corrupt activity conducted by the French and US authorities, by means of a DPA with the US Department of Justice, a Consent Agreement with the US Department of State, and a Convention Judiciaire d’Interet Public (CJIP) with the Parquet National Financier. The total financial sanction imposed by the global agreements is just under €3.6bn.

This was an extremely high profile case involving input from legal teams across the world to formulate and secure a successful global resolution. Ben FitzGerald acted for Airbus in these highly significant and complex DPA proceedings, together with Hugo Keith QC and instructed by Dechert LLP.  Katherine Buckle represented the Serious Fraud Office, together with James Lewis QC and Allison Clare.

The SFO announcement can be found here. The case has been widely reported in the press and can be found here: BBCCity AM and Reuters.

Please contact Chris Emmings for further information.

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