March 19, 2015
Upholding of ‘Double Jeopardy’ rule sees Airbus insider trading trial halted
It was back in March 2006 that seven current and former managers and two former industrial shareholders chose to sell their shares in Airbus. Subsequent events saw a costly delay to the production of the A380, and a costly change made to the strategy for the A 350, which only entered service this year.It was two years after their sale of shares that the finger pointing started and accusations of inider trading were made. During the eight years since these allegations were leveled at the Airbus seven, their actions were thoroughly investigated by the French AMF (Autorité des Marchés Financiers) stock market regulator, and all were cleared of any wrongdoing. However the French courts continued to pursue the seven defendants and in October 2014 they were finally brought to trial. On day one of the trial all proceedings were halted while an appeal was submitted to France’s Constitutional Court. The grounds for the appeal were based on the law of ‘double jeopardy’ which makes it clear that if a defendant has already been cleared of any culpability attached to an event, they cannot then be retried. The argument was that as the AMF had already declared that no evidence of wrongdoing existed, the seven could, and should not be tried again, albeit by a separate judicial system. On Wednesday this week the French Constitutional Court upheld the appeal and ordered the trial be ended with immediate effect on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The 10-person court, including former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, also called on the French Government to alter the law so anyone who has been investigated by the AMF stock market regulator for a specific case cannot go on to face a criminal prosecution and trial. The lawyer acting for Alain Flourens, who is current head of the A380 and one of the seven on trial, said he was delighted with the decision. “The Constitutional Court has vindicated us and decided that the original acquittal by the AMF was definitive and can’t be revisited,” he confirmed. “It’s the right solution”.
When approached, the Airbus Group declined to comment.