Risk Management

Insider-trade Turbulence Hits Ex-Airbus CFO

Andreas Sperl, now Dresden plant head for parent EADS, detained in widening French probe over sales before A380 delays were announced.
Roy HarrisJuly 9, 2008

Europe’s fast-expanding investigation into insider trading at Airbus owner EADS has sucked in ex-Airbus finance chief Andreas Sperl — the first current EADS executive to be detained in the probe, according to Sperl’s attorney.

Since January 2007, Sperl had headed the EADS Dresden plant, according to an Associated Press report. Prior to that, he was CFO at Airbus.

Two French probes now are looking into alleged insider trading in European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. before a June 2006 announcement of delays for Aibus’s double-decker A380 superjumbo airliner, which jolted trading in EADS. The AP said that Sperl was one of 17 people suspected by the Financial Markets Authority, or AMF, of improper activity. The AMF said Sperl sold 58,800 share in November 2005 and March 2006 for a gross gain of $1.3 million.

Preliminary charges already have been filed against former EADS co-CEO Noel Forgeard, former deputy CEO Jean-Paul Gut, and former Airbus president Gustave Humbert. Reports have said that advanced knowledge of negative Airbus events led a number of executives in 2005 and 2006 to sell shares before publication of the news.

The expansion of the probe to current EADS executives suggests more distractions for Airbus in its battle with Boeing Co. for airliner business. Lately, distractions have included airlines backing away from some orders because of lower air-travel demand and higher fuel costs.

One press report quoted Sperl, through a spokeswoman in Dresden, as saying, “I am convinced that I acted in full accordance with the laws in place and with internal regulations.” Another report had Sperl’s lawyer describing the executive as “serene,” and ready to “respond to questions that will be asked of him.” An EADS spokesman was quoted as saying, “Dr. Sperl is assured of the backing of the board of directors of EADS, which has confirmed to all concerned managers its support in the defence against unjustified allegations.”