Mar 2, 2020
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
European airplane manufacturer Airbus will pay nearly four billion dollars in fines to the U.S. Department of Justice, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, and France’s financial prosecutor. All this to avoid prosecution and investigations of corruption.
Airbus used fraud again and again over the years to sell planes everywhere. The French prosecutor is reviewing the company’s sales campaigns from 2004 to 2016 in China, South Korea, Russia, Colombia, Nepal, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates. And the list is far from complete. Airbus paid off middlemen, airline executives, and government officials to choose their planes.
Some corrupt handouts were cited, like high dollar amounts sloshed into tax havens, luxurious gifts, leisure vacations with all expenses paid, and fake employment contracts. Nothing too original, although not all the details were revealed.
Airbus is not the only company in the crosshairs of U.S. authorities, which have the habit of accusing big European companies. Before Airbus, companies like Société Générale, Technip and Alstom had to pay hundreds of millions to be left alone. U.S. authorities want to have control over all commercial transactions—and not for moral reasons. U.S. prosecutors claim jurisdiction over any transaction in dollars, the sale of even one American part, or the establishment of a legal subsidiary based in the U.S. That’s enough to impose fines or block contracts in the U.S. This so-called law of the fittest is used to stop competition with U.S. companies.
But both corruption and the fight against it are all fair in the war of big business competition, which is only impartial in official speeches. A company like Airbus obviously knows this as well as any other trickster would, so it assesses the costs and benefits. This recent fee doesn’t hit Airbus too hard. Some have called it “not so bad a deal.” Airbus was prepared and had set aside the exact amount. The company publicly tied many managers to corrupt deeds and then replaced them, and now promises to behave better.
With the Boeing scandal taking the stage and Airbus avoiding being dragged into court, Airbus shareholders can rest easy. The four billion dollars will simply be accounted for under profits and losses. It will make back the money by ratcheting up exploitation in its factories, at the expense of the workers. Airbus managers began this by announcing 2,300 job cuts, including 630 in Spain and 400 in France.