Leahy, Pillet Charged in EADS Insider-Trading Probe

Airbus COO John Leahy
John Leahy, chief operating officer of Airbus SAS. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Airbus SAS Chief Operating Officer John Leahy and Erik Pillet, the former human resources director at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. unit, were charged by a Paris investigating judge with insider trading.

Leahy was placed under investigation Nov. 5, and Pillet Oct. 1 after they were called in for questioning, said a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office who declined to be named citing office policy.

Criminal investigators are looking into allegations that as many as 17 current and former EADS officials engaged in insider trading ahead of the announcement about production problems that would delay the A380, the world’s biggest passenger plane. The report precipitated a 26 percent drop in the share price on June 14, 2006.

France’s market regulator cleared the officials and the company of any wrongdoing in December 2009 in a parallel probe.

Leahy’s lawyer Patrick Bernard and EADS spokesman Pierre Bayle declined to comment. Calls for comment to the men’s offices weren’t immediately returned.

Leahy, 60, has been the one constant in Airbus’s top management for close to two decades. He was hired six CEOs ago in 1985, and, as an American, is one of the few non-Europeans. Airbus, the world’s largest aircraft maker, is EADS’s biggest unit.

Leahy sold 260,000 shares for 3.1 million euros ($4.1 million) while exercising his options, and Pillet sold 50,400 shares for 542,416 euros, according to a report by the Autorite des Marches Financiers.

Noel Forgeard

Four former executives including former EADS co-chief executive officer Noel Forgeard and one current official have also been preliminarily charged in the probe. The investigation began after EADS investors filed a criminal complaint following the 2006 share price slide.

Other men cleared by the regulator have been questioned by police in the investigation and classified as assisted witnesses, an intermediate step between a simple witness and one who is charged, the spokeswoman said. She refused to say how many had been questioned or how much longer the investigation would go on, saying it is still under way.

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