In bribery case, Airbus to pay $4 billion

Airbus bribed public officials and hid the payments as part of a pattern of worldwide corruption, prosecutors said on Friday as the European planemaker agreed to a record $4 billion settlement with France, Britain and the United States.

The disclosures, made public after a nearly four-year investigation spanning sales to more than a dozen overseas markets, came as courts on both sides of the Atlantic formally approved settlements that lift a legal cloud that has hung over Europe’s largest aerospace group for years.

“It was a pervasive and pernicious bribery scheme in various divisions of Airbus SE that went on for a number of years,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said.

The deal, effectively a corporate plea bargain, means Airbus has avoided criminal prosecution that would have risked it being barred from public contracts in the United States and European Union — a massive blow for a major defense and space supplier.

Prosecutors said individuals could still face criminal charges, however.

Airbus has been investigated by French and British authorities for alleged corruption over jet sales dating back more than a decade. It has also faced U.S. investigations over suspected violations of U.S. export controls.

France’s financial prosecutor said the company had also agreed to three years “light compliance monitoring” by the country’s anti-corruption agency.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the deal was the largest ever foreign bribery settlement.

— Reuters


Exxon Mobil, Chevron report lower results

Weaker crude oil and gas prices drove quarterly results sharply lower at Exxon Mobil and Chevron, pushing down shares at the two largest U.S. oil producers and signaling a weak start to the new year.

While one-time asset sales or write-downs were large factors, the two companies said earnings suffered from weaker margins in crude oil, chemicals and fuel production. They gave tepid outlooks for the near term.

Fourth-quarter results at Exxon fell below Wall Street’s recently lowered estimate, with earnings of $5.6 billion, down from $6 billion a year ago. Its per-share profit excluding one-time gain from asset sales was 41 cents, below Wall Street’s estimate of 43 cents and 71 cents before a recent warning.

Chevron swung to a loss of $6.61 billion from a year-earlier profit of $3.73 billion. The company had $10 billion in charges including write-downs on the value of oil and gas properties that were no longer economic to pump. Excluding charges, its $1.49 a share profit topped estimates.

This week, Royal Dutch Shell’s shares hit a three-year low after it laid out a plan to pull back on share buybacks amid slower global growth and weak commodity prices.

Exxon chief executive Darren Woods said its natural gas, refining and chemicals businesses have suffered from near or at decade-low prices.

— Reuters

Also in Business

U.S. consumer spending rose steadily in December, but tepid income gains pointed to moderate consumption growth this year, which together with slumping business investment likely set the economy on a slower growth path this year. While the report on Friday from the Commerce Department also showed inflation picking up last month because of higher prices for energy products, price pressures remained muted. The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and could keep monetary policy on hold at least through 2020. Economic growth is expected to slow in the first quarter.

Eli Lilly on Friday priced its acute migraine treatment at $640 for a pack of eight pills and said it will be made available in pharmacies in the next few days. The list price of a drug is not necessarily what patients actually pay. "Out-of-pocket" costs vary based on the duration of the treatment and individual health care plans.

A social media campaign announcing the "first White Castle in North Carolina" was an elaborate hoax that apparently duped hundreds of burger lovers around Charlotte over the past two days. The responsible party is still a mystery, but the mischief included a Facebook page that revealed an opening date in the fall and an address for the restaurant outside Charlotte in Indian Trail.

— From news services