Tom Enders, head of airplane maker Airbus, is willing to resign if it is necessary to clear up corruption investigations and allegations.
“I’m not glued to my chair,” Mr. Enders told Handelsblatt. “You can be assured: Once I am no longer part of the solution, and I hope I would realize myself when that is, I will accept the consequences (and step down). But for now, I don’t think we’re at this point,” Mr. Enders said.
The Airbus board supported the CEO on Thursday, but it only did so after it had commissioned its own study of top management, people familiar with the matter told news agency Reuters.
Airbus, the main rival of Chicago-based Boeing, was rocked with fresh corruption allegations last week, centering on an alleged system of outside advisers and secret slush funds. Both military and civil aircraft orders are said to have been tainted, with investigations under way in the UK, France, Austria and Germany.
Mr. Enders, CEO since 2012, rejected allegations the airplane maker managed a secret account to bribe officials in return for orders. “I don’t have one and I don’t know of any,” he said.
The Franco-German company, listed in Paris and Frankfurt, could face significant fines as the result of investigations in several European countries. The fear is that the accusations could reach US courts, where billion dollar judgments have hobbled European industrial companies in the past – a move that Austrian defense minister, Hans Peter Doskozil, has threatened as he excavates new corruption charges.
The German manager has been a very public voice in favor of a new Airbus corporate culture, looking to draw a line under the murky dealings of the past. Airbus claims it is working tirelessly to root out corruption, emphasizing that it made voluntary disclosures in 2015 after CFO Harald Wilhelm discovered accounting discrepancies.
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Thomas Hanke is Handelsblatt’s correspondent in Paris. Thomas Sigmund is the bureau chief in Berlin, where he directs political coverage. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com