Are Airbus’ ethics now in question?

Airbus’ now-public intelligence brief about the 787 must raise some questions about the company’s code of ethics.

Of course, collecting intelligence on a competitor is not unethical — it’s smart, and all companies do it. But there are lines and standards. As a competitor, Airbus’ practice of re-publishing Boeing’s clearly-marked proprietary data — even internally — will certainly raise eyebrows across the industry.

This morning, I asked John Douglass, former head of the Aerospace Industries Association, about this. He has not reviewed the Airbus document yet, but here’s what he thinks.

“Anytimeyou see one company with another company’s slides marked ‘proprietary’ it doesraise an eyebrow and you wonder what the deal is,” Douglass said. “You have to wonder how widelyavailable these things are. It could have been something that’s very widelyavailable. Somebody had a presentation at a conference and it saidproprietary but it was handed out anyway. And in a case like there’s not much of an issue.”

But what if it isn’t? Could such a document provoke concerns within the US government even as Airbus seeks to offer the US Air Force the A330 as a tanker?

“Obviouslyour government is, you know, concerned about these things and want to see all thecontractors perform in an ethical way, so, yeah, it could be an issue,” Douglass said. “On the otherhand this could be just some charts somebody got.”


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5 Responses to Are Airbus’ ethics now in question?

  1. Tim D-T 4 December, 2008 at 4:21 pm #

    The funniest bit of the Airbus briefing is the Airbus proprietary statement on the last page, which says “all information in this presentation is property of Airbus”

  2. Royce 4 December, 2008 at 6:30 pm #

    Airbus probably wanted this info to get out to the airlines, but when it comes to the tanker contest you wonder if they aren’t handing some ammo to Boeing partisans in Congress.

  3. anonymous 6 December, 2008 at 5:33 am #

    You have to wonder if Airbus’ “releasing” of this document violates any kind of SEC regulations, since both EADS and Boeing are publicly traded.

    As for the ethics aspect, I don’t see anything wrong with a little hard-ball publicity. After all, it’s business.

  4. Philip 8 December, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    I’m really happy to see that Airbus is doing what the US manufacturers are doing for ever.
    I’m amused to see people surprised and chocked by Airbus’ analysis but what Douglas did when they used the Caravelle agreement in order to develop the DC9.??
    What the US manufacturers “mafia” used in order to kill Concorde??
    Who is speaking about ethics at Boeing when they got the Tanker contract in 2002 without any competition and with some “gifts” to the right persons?
    Boeing can’t accept competition due to their arrogance forever and now their main competitor is using the same tools “competitive intelligence” as them! Where is the issue?
    Do not ask your competitor to not do what you do forever.
    Long life to the European Aerospace Industry. Like US citizens, be proud and stand up!!

  5. Ebbuk 9 December, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    Airbus will never get the Air tanker contract. There is no need to raise this intelligence scoop to throw s*it to the fan.

    This is actually all a Boeing plot to secure the contract. By leaving sensitive documents around, Airbus took the bait and now Boeing looks like the most sensitive, ethical business.

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