Boeing hires federal appeals judge

May 11, 2006|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- Boeing Co. said yesterday that it has hired Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to be its top in-house lawyer - an unconventional choice for the aerospace giant that is seeking to restore its reputation after high-profile ethics scandals.

Luttig, once on the short list for a nomination to the Supreme Court, will succeed Douglas Bain as senior vice president and general counsel. Bain, 57, plans to retire July 1 after 24 years with the company. He spent the past six as general counsel.

In his resignation letter to President Bush yesterday, Luttig said that the job was a "singular opportunity" and that he felt he was staying within the realm of public service by moving to work for a defense giant and "American icon" Boeing.

Bain's departure comes as the company is negotiating a comprehensive settlement of two federal criminal investigations into its defense business. Boeing could end up paying a fine as large as $500 million to resolve allegations that it improperly acquired proprietary documents from rival Lockheed Martin Corp. and illegally recruited a senior Air Force official while she still had oversight of billions of dollars in other Boeing contracts.

Such a fine would be one of the biggest financial penalties ever levied on a U.S. company for misconduct. Boeing Chief Financial Officer James Bell said last month that the company was working with federal authorities on those matters but denied reports that a settlement was imminent.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said Bain is leaving voluntarily after expressing the desire to step down as early as last year. Bain's exit is not connected to the lack of a settlement after several months of negotiations, Dern said.

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