Airbus looks for outside help on compliance

European plane manufacturer Airbus, which is facing fraud allegations, has looked to outside help in setting up a new compliance review group to clean up its internal processes.

“To embed irreproachable behaviours in all our business undertakings sustainably, we must take a hard look at both our systems and our culture,” said the group’s chief executive officer (CEO) Tom Enders announcing the latest review.

It is the second time in less than five years that Airbus has hired outside help for a review group in response to fraud allegations. Several issues that led to the compliance review in 2012 are still under investigation, including the group’s involvement in a US$1bn-plus deal a decade earlier to sell Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets to Austria.

Austrian officials said Enders is among the individuals at the centre of its probe into whether Airbus overcharged the government for the sale of military planes. The group has denied wrongdoing and said it was cooperating with authorities.

Airbus is also being investigated by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over alleged bribery by a subsidiary in business dealings in Saudi Arabia over several years.

Last year, the SFO widened its investigation to include Airbus’s possible misuse of middlemen in winning plane deals. French officials also are probing the use of third-party intermediaries used during the sale of commercial airliners. Airbus has also said it had hired forensic accountants to help review what happened and has frozen payments to third-party consultants.

Following the earlier compliance review in 2012, Airbus said that it had tightened its compliance procedures and taken other steps aimed at preventing future possible non-compliance. The new three-member “independence compliance review panel”, consisting of Theo Waigel, a former German finance minister, David Gold, one of the UK’s most senior lawyers, and Noëlle Lenoir, a former French minister and specialist in competition law.

The trio will be given “all access to all levels of the company and will report to the Airbus CEO and board on how to further improve Airbus’ compliance processes, policies, organisation and culture”.

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