Dechert Assists Airbus to Reach First Coordinated Global Settlement with the Major UK, French and U.S. Authorities

January 31, 2020

Airbus SE, an industry leader in the aerospace sector, announced today that it has reached what is believed to be the world’s first coordinated settlement agreement with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the French Parquet National Financier (PNF), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). The resulting convention judiciaire d'intérêt public (CJIP), deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) and Consent Order bring to a close the investigations into alleged bribery and corruption, and non-compliance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Airbus’ reporting and cooperation during the investigation has been recognised as “exemplary”. The final settlements reached under the DPAs and CJIPs were: SFO €984 million; PNF €2,083 million; DOJ €526 million and DOS €9 million of which €4.50 million may be used for approved remediation and compliance measures.  This makes the combined settlement c. €3.6 billion.

Airbus relied on an elite group of white collar and export control practitioners comprising Dechert (UK); Clifford Chance (France), August Debouzy (France); as well as Paul Hastings and Arnold & Porter (U.S.) for its overarching legal strategy, with eDiscovery and forensic accounting support from Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA). Dechert played a leading role in the global strategy and four year investigation involving reporting to multiple enforcement agencies in collaboration with the other law firms. Dechert assisted Airbus with its report to the SFO from April 2016 and in achieving the resulting DPA.

Airbus General Counsel John Harrison said, Dechert’s outstanding team has played a key role, demonstrating remarkable leadership, innovation, expertise and collaboration.”

The Dechert team advising Airbus, led by London partners Neil Gerrard, Caroline Black, Tim Bowden and Matthew Cowie, involved lawyers in London and around the world including U.S.-based partner Ben Barnett, who designed and led the implementation of Airbus’ global disclosure strategy which significantly included use of a unified review model and technology assisted review to accelerate the identification, review, and production of documents to the authorities as efficiently as possible while navigating national security laws, multiple languages, differing data protection regimes, and national blocking statutes. National partner Karen Coppens also played a key role supporting Airbus’ in-house legal team and recently relocated to Paris to establish Dechert’s white collar crime team in France.

Dechert Partner Neil Gerrard said, “It has been an honour and privilege to work with such an impressive group of lawyers and other professionals from Airbus and their external advisory firms. Dechert is proud to have assisted Airbus to reach a conclusion to this matter.”

Hugo Keith QC of Three Raymond Buildings and Ben FitzGerald of QEB Hollis Whiteman acted as counsel to Airbus. Tony Shaw QC of Red Lion Chambers assisted Dechert. Simon Davis of Clifford Chance acted as strategic advisor to the company.

Dechert’s market-leading global white collar, compliance and investigations practice advises on complex and high-stakes global regulatory investigations and prosecutions by UK, U.S., EU and Asia authorities and has handled investigations in 92 countries. Dechert has one of the largest specialist white collar crime teams in London, with over 40 lawyers including former prosecutors from the Department of Justice, Serious Fraud Office, Crown Prosecution Service and Financial Conduct Authority. Dechert is one of the only firms with top white collar and investigations practices on both sides of the Atlantic. This includes U.S. lawyers resident in London to advise clients in connection with U.S. government investigations and litigation. Dechert has advised on cases involving the UK’s SFO, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HM Revenue and Customs and National Crime Agency; the PNF in France; BaFin in Germany; the European Commission in Belgium; the U.S. DOJ, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); and other government and regulatory bodies.

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Dechert is a leading global law firm with 26 offices around the world. We advise on matters and transactions of the greatest complexity, bringing energy, creativity and efficient management of legal issues to deliver commercial and practical advice for clients.