Benjamin Haberkorn, a partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland, says it’s clear there was animosity and cross-claims over the past year.
Without seeing the settlement in full, he cautions that “it is hard to say which party backed down more than the other”. But, in his view, “the feud has been brought to an end, much to the benefit of the parties and probably of us all”.
Haberkorn may shy away from suggesting either side emerged victorious. Yet AstraZeneca perhaps had most to lose in an acrimonious court dispute.
Under the settlement, the company appears to be subject to less arduous conditions for delivering its vaccines – something that can only come as a relief to its beleagured bosses.
For months, Commission officials had been adamant the EU would get what was deemed to be “its fair share” of vaccines.
Brussels said it did not “accept the late delivery of the vaccines by AstraZeneca and considers that this is a violation of the contract”.
Initially the EU had expected 300m doses by June 2021. In a court case earlier this year, it had been pushing for this to happen at least before September. AstraZeneca now has until next March to deliver the remaining 200m doses.
What’s more, EU officials had been threatening to impose steep penalties on AstraZeneca should it fail to meet deadlines. It demanded in a court case earlier this year that the firm pay €10 per dose per day it failed to supply the doses, which could have spiralled into fines running into the billions.
Under the settlement, penalties will come in the form of capped rebates. If there is any delay “beyond the reasonable control of AstraZeneca”, the rebate will not be granted.
With all this in mind, it may seem like AstraZeneca has had a lucky escape. At the very least, removing the spectre of a looming court case with the EU would be expected to allow the company to finally focus to delivering doses rather than wrangling over schedules.