Judicial Equity

Formula One Chief's €100 Million Legal Settlement, Common in U.S., Britain, Sparks Debate in Germany

Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone leaves the regional court in Munich.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The large financial settlement adopted this week to end the trial of Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone will likely lead to future seven-figure resolutions in Germany, which up until now had resisted such large awards.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • A Munich court this week accepted an offer by Formula One President Bernie Ecclestone to settle his corruption.
    • Mr. Ecclestone agreed to pay €100 million to settle the case, a rarity in Germany.
    • Under terms of the settlement, Mr. Ecclestone did not admit to guilt.
  • Audio

    Audio

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When Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone agreed this week with German prosecutors to pay €100 million to bring his bribery trial to an end, he opened the door for more legal bargains of a kind that are more common in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom.

Legal experts say the size of the Ecclestone settlement, which is unprecedented in Germany, paves the way for similar cases to go forward.

“Ecclestone sets a precedent in the sense that the limits of what is financially possible have been stretched,” said Tido Park, a German lawyer with Park Wirtschaftsrecht, a law firm in Dortmund.

Mr. Ecclestone was indicted last July and went on trial in a Munich court on corruption, accused of having paid €33 million to a high-ranking executive with the Bavarian State Bank, Bayern LB.

Prosecutors alleged that the payment was a bribe to facilitate the sale of Formula One commercial rights at an undervalued price to its current holder, CVC Capital Partners – an ally of Mr. Ecclestone. Bayern LB came into possession of the rights after German media entrepreneur, Leo Kirch, filed for bankruptcy.

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