Dechert and Clifford Chance take key roles on Anglo-French investigation of Airbus

Dechert and Clifford Chance (CC) are advising Airbus on the joint Anglo-French criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the company’s civil aviation business.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is looking into allegations relating to the France-headquartered manufacturer’s use of third-party consultants to win aircraft orders, an investigation that began in July 2016.

Dechert is advising on the SFO probe with London corporate crime specialist Neil Gerrard as lead partner.

Meanwhile, CC is acting on the concurrent French investigation by national fraud investigator and prosecutor, the Parquet National Financier, which began in March. CC is fielding a team led by Paris disputes partner Thomas Baudesson.

The news comes after the London Evening Standard reported last week that Airbus was in talks to settle fraud claims for £1bn through a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the SFO.

The SFO has sealed two major DPAs this year, including an agreement with Rolls-Royce that will see the company pay out £617m following a four-year bribery and corruption investigation, as well as a DPA with Tesco that has seen the retailer agree to pay a fine of £129m to avoid prosecution after overstating its profits.

SFO director David Green QC is set to step down when his leadership term at the regulator ends next year, with potential successors including SFO general counsel Alun Milford.

In 2011, Gerrard took a lead role for the audit committee investigating allegations of corruption at the mining company ENRC, which was also subject to an SFO probe over fraud, bribery and corruption allegations. Gerrard began the work at DLA Piper, taking the mandate with him on his move to Dechert later that year.

Airbus, Dechert and CC declined to comment.