Ethics After Being Rejected for a Lucrative Thesis

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Ethics

After being rejected for a lucrative Air Force rocket contract, Boeing made several acquisitions to raise their profile in aerospace and put them back on the Air Force's radar. However, the pursuit of the rocket contract and other big Air Force deals led to a pair of major ethical lapses.

In one case, the Air Force purchasing czar, Darleen Druyun, essentially gave Boeing a deal overvalued by $6 billion in exchange for jobs for herself, her daughter and her son-in-law. Druyun's backroom dealings with Boeing CFO Mark Sears also included a $4 billion aircraft upgrade deal. The other scandal was with respect to industrial espionage. Boeing hired engineers from rival Lockheed Martin. These engineers brought trade secrets from Lockheed with them, giving Boeing an advantage in the competition for a $20 Air Force rocket deal.

Boeing had to that point paid little attention to governance issues. The firm's governance policies were vague. Several board members had potential conflicts of interest. However, the ethical lapses were deemed to be isolated incidents rather than systemic problems.

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When current CEO W. James McNerney took over in 2005, he decided that the top priority for Boeing was to clean up its ethical act. He made a few symbolic gestures, and then arranged for the board to be overhauled. The committee responsible for governance was also overhauled in the process and the directors with the highest potential conflict of interest were removed. McNerney then re-wrote the code of conduct, making it more explicitly related to ethical conduct issues.

Company Background

Thesis on Ethics After Being Rejected for a Lucrative Assignment

Boeing is the world's largest manufacturer of commercial airliners, military aircraft and is a world aerospace leader (Boeing, 2009). In addition to aircraft, Boeing manufactures satellites, missiles, human space flight vehicles, and launch systems. The company operates five different segments: Commercial Airplanes, Military Aircraft, Network and Space Systems, Global Services & Support, and Boeing Capital Corporation. The company has attained some degree of vertical integration with respect to software development for its products.

Though today headquartered in Chicago, Boeing had its start in California, when William Boeing developed two floatplanes. The company's first production order was for 50 seaplanes, in 1917 to help with the war effort. The company participated in a handful of firsts, including the first international air mail delivery, from Vancouver to Seattle. The Army Air Service continued through this period to be Boeing's biggest customer. Boeing Air Transport was developed to run regular mail routes, including the 22 1/2-hour San Francisco to Chicago run. By 1958, it had developed the 707, the first American commercial jet liner. The 707 established Boeing as the leader in this market. Boeing later contributed to the Space Shuttle (Boeing.com, 2009).

In the decades following World War Two, several major aerospace firms gradually came together. McDonnell and Douglas merged in 1967, with that firm joining Boeing in 1997. The other major constituents of the modern Boeing are North American Aviation (by way of Rockwell International) and Hughes Aircraft, which came to Boeing via a complicated set of deals involving Raytheon and GM.

The company restructured itself into its major division, with former executives at its acquisitions taking a variety of positions within the Boeing hierarchy. Despite its longstanding history with the military, Boeing had become better known for its civilian aircraft and associations with NASA. With the series of acquisitions in the mid-90s, it moved aggressively back into the military market. Prior to the acquisitions, Boeing's defense revenues were just 1/3 of its commercial aircraft revenues, but the company felt that the defense market had tremendous growth potential (Bowermaster, 2005).

In March of 2001, Boeing announced its move to a new headquarters in Chicago, leaving Seattle behind. Having acquired a variety of defense companies piecemeal, Boeing restructured them into a new Integrated Defense Systems unit. The company had by this point established all of its major commercial and military businesses, including its finance arm, its air traffic control business and its Homeland Security Business followed shortly.

By this point, all of the major players in the corporate governance scandal were in place as well. Phil Condit was named CEO in 1996. Michael Sears, a former President of Douglas Aircraft, was Chief Financial Officer. The firm had established a relationship with Darleen Druyun, both through her work at the Air Force with McDonnell Douglas and through her getting her daughter and son-in-law hired at Boeing in 2000.

Situation Analysis

Corporate governance problems do not arise in a vacuum. Thus, they are unlikely to manifest themselves in the form of a single scandal. Instead, corporate governance issues typically arise from identifiable patterns of behavior, culture and lack of control (Jones & Pollitt, 2003). At Boeing, the buildup of poor corporate governance led to several governance crises. One scandal involved new hire Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force procurement staffer, the other involved industrial espionage charges levied by Lockheed Martin.

Darleen Druyun's relationship with Boeing began when she was in charge of purchasing at the Air Force. Although technically she had bosses, they were civilian appointees of the White House and tended to rotate frequently leaving her, the career Air Force staffer, as the permanent fixture. Druyun held considerable sway over the Air Force's purchasing, and was directly responsible for negotiating prices on weaponry (Leung, 2005).

Air Force tenders are lucrative contracts for defense manufacturers. The industry is concentrated, with only a handful of major players. In addition to Boeing, these include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and United Technologies (UTC). At the time of the Darleen Druyun scandal, Boeing and Lockheed Martin were the two largest Air Force contractors, each doing $6.5 billion worth of business. Overall, Lockheed Martin did $12.4 billion in military business while Boeing did almost $11 billion, making them the two largest military contractors by far (Government Executive, 1999). The Air Force was the biggest customer of each. As a result, the intensity of the competitive rivalry was intense.

In 2000, Druyun had to decided whether or not to award Boeing a $4 billion contract to update the C-130 aircraft. Given that total annual Air Force business was worth $6.5 billion, this potential contract was a major deal for both the Air Force and for Boeing. Druyun arranged that year for her daughter and son-in-law to be hired by Boeing. She made the deal personally with CFO Michael Sears and a few months later the $4 billion contract was approved.

The relationship between Boeing and Druyun became ever more suspect when Boeing offered to lease the Air Force 100-767 refueling tankers for $23.5 billion. That price was inflated and met with serious opposition, but Druyun sided with Boeing. Moreover, Druyun's daughter emailed Michael Sears informing him that her mother would soon be retiring from the Air Force and looking for work. Had Druyun made such an email herself, it would have been in violation of conflict of interest laws. Overall, the illicit deal to bring Druyun to Boeing allowed Boeing the inside edge on the overpriced refueling tanker contract ($6 billion overpriced) and two other contracts worth half a billion dollars (Leung, 2005).

The Lockheed Martin industrial espionage scandal began when the company terminated engineer Ken Branch in 1999 for allegedly having seven pages of Lockheed Martin files, in violation of company policy. The files pertained to Lockheed Martin rockets. Both firms were engaged in an intense competition for a lucrative Air Force rocket program at the time. Branch was a former Lockheed Martin engineer who had moved to Boeing. The deal was expected to be worth $15 billion over 20 years, and would be exclusive to the winning company. Boeing had been eliminated from contention for the deal in 1995, but remained in contention by purchasing McDonnell-Douglas. The firm therefore had substantial stake in the rocket deal (Bowermaster, 2005)

However, Boeing attorneys later admitted that Branch had over 3000 pages. A subsequent investigation found 25,000 pages. Other Boeing employees were in possession of a total of 66,000 pages of Lockheed Martin data. It was not unusual for rocket-builders like Branch to jump between firms in the industry, as competition for their talents would often drive up their salaries. However in this case, the key factor was that Branch brought samples of Lockheed Martin data to Boeing during his job interview and promised to bring more if I received the position. Also critical were the repeatedly denials by Boeing of the amount of stolen data, which it knew to be around 25,000 pages (Ibid.)

Legal action concerning both events was active during 2005. The Lockheed espionage cost Boeing $1 billion in Air Force contracts initially, with the possibility of more punishment on the way. Likewise, the Druyun scandal cost Boeing not only money but goodwill. CFO Sears was fired, and CEO Condit ultimately stepped down. The legal action and subsequent fallout provided the impetus for Boeing's corporate governance initiatives.

Executive and Board Review

Philip Condit was elected to the board at Boeing in 1992, the same year he ascended to the President post.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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