Airbus nears settlements with US, UK, French investigators

PARIS (AP) — Airbus said Tuesday it has reached preliminary settlement deals with authorities in the U.S., Britain and France investigating alleged fraud and bribery. While it did not disclose the size of the settlements, it put aside 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) to cover the costs.

The plea deals have yet to be approved by courts in all three countries, with court hearings due on Jan. 31. If approved, the settlements would end four years of investigations that have damaged the European plane maker’s reputation and bottom line.

The settlements would also mean executives wouldn’t have to face trial.

British and French authorities are investigating alleged fraud and bribery related to Airbus’ use of outside consultants to sell planes. U.S. authorities are also investigating Airbus’ compliance with American arms trafficking regulations.

Airbus said in two statements Tuesday it has “reached agreement in principle” with the investigating bodies. It said the potential settlement agreements must be approved by courts in the three countries and would provide more details once the deals have been finalized.

Airbus, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers, has suffered financially because of the investigations, and has promised to cut out middlemen from its business dealings.

The French financial prosecutor’s office and British Serious Fraud Office started investigating in 2016, and the U.S. Department of Justice joined in 2018.

The Airbus investigation was one of the first and biggest cases led by the French financial prosecutor’s office, which has only reached five settlements since it was created in 2014. The largest plea deal was with Google, which agreed to pay 500 million euros to settle a tax fraud claim.

If the French plea deal is confirmed, Airbus must pay out the settlement within eight days.