Two senior Airbus executives charged with insider dealing in France

Chief operating officer John Leahy and former HR director Erik Pillet face charges over exercise of share options in the weeks prior to release of bad news relating to A380 programme

Airbus's chief operating officer, John Leahy, and its former human resources director Erik Pillet have been charged with insider trading by an investigating judge in Paris.

Leahy and Pillet have been under investigation for some weeks after being called in for questioning. Leahy was cleared last year, with other executives, in a separate inquiry into similar charges by France's stock market regulator.

Both investigations followed a 26% slump in the parent group EADS's share price in the summer of 2006 after Airbus announced that technical problems and production delays had hit its new A380 superjumbo.

Leahy was one of a number of executives who exercised share options weeks before the announcement about the delays to the A380 programme was made. The market did not know how serious the problems were until the formal announcement on 26 June, which prompted the plunge in the share price.

According to an anonymous judicial source quoted in reports tonight, the new investigation into Leahy followed recent questioning of about 10 people by French judges. It is understood that some of those questioned had lawyers present. A spokesman for Airbus in the UK declined to comment. Leahy has not issued a statement so far.

The reports will be a blow for Airbus, which is based in Toulouse, and an unwelcome reminder of a saga the company thought it had put behind it.

The French stock market regulator said a year ago that it had not found any evidence that Leahy and other executives who had exercised share options knew about the extent of the problems with the A380 beforehand. Former EADS co-chief executive Noël Forgeard, who denied any wrongdoing, was also cleared by the regulator in France.


Tim Webb

The GuardianTramp

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