Airbus board backs CEO after reviewing top management
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[October 12, 2017]
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus directors publicly
backed Chief Executive Tom Enders on Thursday in the face of European
investigations into the use of middlemen in airplane sales and a $2
billion fighter deal.
But in a sign of the disquiet within the aerospace group, the board only
declared its support for Enders after its own review of senior
management, two people familiar with the matter said.
The investigations by Britain's Serious Fraud Office and later its
French counterpart were triggered by Airbus in 2016 when it reported
itself to UK authorities after uncovering flawed documents over the use
of intermediaries in airplane sales.
Enders and legal counsel John Harrison have come under fire from within
Airbus and in the French media for opening the floodgates to widening
investigations and for overseeing what several insiders have called an
The Airbus board defended the decision to alert UK authorities to its
"These decisions were made with the board's unanimous approval and
actions were all directed by Tom Enders, the company's CEO," it said in
"The Board has full trust and confidence in Tom and depends on his
leadership to continue the transformation of the company and in
particular our compliance program alongside our General Counsel, John
Harrison," it added.
The board's own assessment of the group's top executives was carried out
over the summer and was commissioned to evaluate whether senior managers
played any role that created risks for the company. No such evidence was
discovered, the people said.
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Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders listens during a news
conference on the aerospace group's annual results, in London,
Britain February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Enders has been placed under separate investigation in Vienna over a 2003
Eurofighter sale to Austria, but has denied any wrongdoing and says the probe is
The board's decision to examine its own top management highlights efforts being
taken to restore stability after months of tension as the corruption row
Airbus Chairman Denis Ranque continues to support Enders, but people familiar
with the discussions say he is choosing his words carefully pending the outcome
of the probe.
"There is certainly some alarm at board level," a person familiar with the
Enders has promised to drive through sweeping changes in the company's culture
as legal experts say Airbus is preparing the ground for what it hopes could be a
deal with UK prosecutors.
He told staff in a letter disclosed to Reuters last week to prepare for
turbulence and that he and Harrison had the board's unanimous backing to lead
Airbus out of the legal crisis.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Alexander Smith)
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