A group of 17 top managers at European Aerospace and Defense Group EADS and its Airbus unit may have sold shares with insider knowledge, a report has said. Airbus CEO Tom Enders rejected the allegations on Wed, April 9.
Top managers are said to have sold off shares before the A380 was plagued by delays
Enders stated that he and other officials were innocent of insider trading and called a report by French web news service Mediapart which detailed the allegations incompetent, biased and unfair.
News of the probe into possible insider trading was leaked to the Internet site which then published the allegations on Tuesday, an act that Enders called "shocking" and "unacceptable."
"I know I have done nothing wrong nd I say the same for all the managers who are supposedly involved," the Airbus CEO told a news briefing in New Zealand. "I am absolutely convinced there was no wrong-doing. We will demonstrate that the people who have done the investigation haven't done that in a competent way," he said.
"We will defend our reputation and our rights to be presumed innocent with all means at our disposal," he said. "Our names are dragged into the mud... and we are sitting ducks. So we hope very much that these accusations now come into the open, and then the managers know what they are accused of, so we can defend ourselves."
The Mediapart report, sourced to French investigators at the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), claimed that French regulators were probing 17 officials at Airbus and EADS to see if they had sold off shares in light of inside information they had about production delays for the superjumbo.
Mediapart said that among those being probed were Enders and former EADS co-chief executive Noel Forgeard -- as well as shareholders including German automaker Daimler and French media and defense firm Lagardere.
The head of the AMF criticized the leak, but refused to comment on the contents.
Airbus CEO calls French probe "biased"
Enders believes the probe is driven by a conspiracy theory
Enders not only heavily criticized the online article but also the AMF investigation itself, calling it "unfair" and "biased."
"The investigation has been conducted by people who know nothing about our business and don't even want to know about our business, and are driven by a conspiracy theory," he added. "As the head of Airbus and a member of the EADS top team, I stand up to say I'm absolutely convinced that we will refute all allegations. We hope that soon we'll be able to defend ourselves properly, because so far we haven't."
The AMF had previously announced that there was cause for action against several people at EADS over alleged insider trading at the end of 2005 and in early 2006, but did not release any names.
Probe claims shares sold before delay made public
The double-decker A380 is the largest passenger airline ever built, and has been the centerpiece of Airbus efforts to compete with US rival Boeing. It made its first commercial flight in October after billions of dollars in cost over-runs and months of delays.
The A380 delays were known three months before going public
In March 2006, EADS privately cut its 2007 delivery target for the new superjumbo aircraft. Later that month, Lagardere and what was then DaimlerChrysler said they would each sell a 7.5 percent stake in EADS.
The A380 delays were publicly announced in June 2006, sending the EADS share price down more than 26 percent.
The AMF said shortly after that it was looking at certain previous stock deals, and in July 2006, Forgeard stepped down. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The French government, which has a 15 percent stake in EADS, has insisted its conduct in the matter has been "beyond reproach."