The Airbus corruption case isn’t concluded yet

The Airbus legal settlement clears line of fire for hitting responsible managers. unsplash-logoG-R Mottez

The monstrous corruption case at Airbus ends with a settlement in the amount of approximately 3.6 billion euros. But it does not mean the end, as reports want us to believe.

The “Deferred Prosecution Agreement” concluded between Airbus and the United Kingdom is not a legal settlement in the entire sense of meaning. It is true that the aircraft and missile manufacturer is preventing a legal charge or conviction. This is important in order to be able to continue participating in public tenders. The plaintiff states themselves have no interest in this, because they would then deprive themselves of the opportunity to have access to a quality manufacturer in this segment. Many jobs are also dependent on it. All this would create political pressure that the governments do not want to expose themselves to. 

But the DPA does not mean a free ride. Strict compliance rules are attached to the contract agreement. This is in line with the fact that criminal cases with companies are usually complex and investigations take years. A DPA does not mean the end of a filing procedure. The respective company is under strict supervision of the authorities. Furthermore, personal criminal proceedings against employees of the company are not only possible, but also very likely. 

The recent case in Germany showed what this means. Several managers were dismissed because they had used documents previously classified by the German Armed Forces as “VS for official use only”. Insiders know: The classification of this kind is on every duty roster of a company in the Bundeswehr and does not really mean a classic level of secrecy. But the sensitivity is being readjusted. What was common practice yesterday is now frowned upon.

This is precisely the aim of a DPA. Metaphorically speaking, the company (as a legal entity) buys itself out of debt and clears the way to be able to personally prosecute the respective acting managers. In doing so, the company no longer protects the employees, but withdraws the protection of mutual loyalty. The line of fire for individual employees of the company is clear. 

This will frighten some managers at Airbus. After all, in their opinion, they have acted entirely in the interests of the company and have not even enriched themselves personally. After all, the goal was always the next big deal – always having the company’s advantage in mind, as a manager of Airbus told EurObsIT.

But these practises seem being over now. This will dramatically change the procedure for corruption in companies. The times are past when corrupting managers had a good reputation in companies because they ultimately ensured the success of the company in a clever way. They are now in the pillory. A desired intention. The companies keep themselves free of damage and the personal responsibility of people in leading positions is strengthened. In the future, it will no longer necessarily be the manager who sells as much as possible that will gain influence within a company, but the manager who observes compliance rules. Fairness and good behaviour alone do not guarantee the success of a company. The honest broker will only sell more if there is an institution that guarantees fair competition. And here are the difficulties – companies like Airbus which are acting globally can’t rely on a transparent and leveraged legal setting elsewhere.

So the future is not all that bright. DPAs as a legal instrument have so far only been introduced in a few countries and are usually relatively new. And what about states and companies based there that have a different kind of relationship to corruption? Here, the Airbus corruption cases took place, like in Ghana or with the company “Air Asia”, located in Malaysia.