08 April 2009 | Jake Kanter
Airbus has admitted it probed staff's bank details in Germany between 2005 and 2007, as part of an attempt to check for potential procurement fraud.
The aircraft manufacturer conducted an internal investigation into employees' personal accounts to see if they matched those of vendors.
An Airbus spokesman said the probe was legal at the time and aimed to uncover any corruption to give the company a "clean bill of health". No wrongdoing was found.
He added that if similar actions were taken again the company would have to inform employees and industry groups.
The checks, carried out under the former management of the firm's German operations, emerged following an internal audit under the current regime.
The tactics have divided opinion, with some believing it is excessive, while others said it could make good commercial sense.
Susan Singleton, solicitor at Singletons, said if organisations made it clear to staff in contracts that their bank details will be used for other purposes, then it is legal in the UK to carry out such investigations.
She argued a probe similar to that at Airbus could make commercial sense and could be an effective way of monitoring bribery, if done legally.
Singleton added that businesses could introduce strict gift and commission policies for staff to mitigate the risk of bribery.
But a spokeswoman from the Information Commissioners Office said it was "excessive" to employ such a "blanket strategy" when dealing with personal data.
She said if organisations suspect corrupt activity they should isolate those believed to be involved and then launch an investigation.