Boeing hires 2 lawyers to fix relations with Pentagon

Company seeks lifting of suspension over ethics

February 04, 2005|By Susan Chandler | Susan Chandler,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Boeing Co. has hired two high-powered outside attorneys to help it move beyond ethical lapses that have damaged its relationship with the Pentagon and cost it billions of dollars in business.

The aerospace manufacturer confirmed yesterday that it has engaged Richard Cullen, a former Virginia attorney general, and Jamie Gorelick, a former high-ranking Justice Department official and member of the 9/11 Commission.

The additional legal talent is intended to "help us work through the complexities of the legal matters we are dealing with right now," said Boeing spokesman Dan Beck.

Eighteen months ago, Boeing was suspended from new military-rocket launches because the company had thousands of proprietary documents from rival Lockheed Martin Corp. in its possession when bidding on launch contracts.

Initially, the suspension was expected to last a few months, but it dragged on after Boeing ran into ethical problems on a $23 billion Air Force contract for refueling tankers.

The tanker contract was scrapped last fall after Darleen Druyun, the former Air Force official who negotiated it, acknowledged that she had increased the price as a "parting gift" to Boeing. She said she had favored Boeing in other contracts because her daughter and son-in-law worked there, and she hoped to someday.

Druyun and Michael Sears, Boeing's former chief financial officer, were fired in late 2003 for negotiating a post-Air Force retirement job for Druyun while she was handling the Boeing contracts. Druyun began serving a nine-month prison sentence in January for violating federal contracting laws. Sears, who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 18.

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Harry Stonecipher said this week that he doesn't expect Boeing's suspension to be lifted before that happens. "Nobody has the courage to do anything until after that," he told Wall Street analysts Wednesday.

An Air Force spokeswoman said she didn't know if there are settlement talks with Boeing.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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