On the scale of corporate impropriety, a married CEO's dalliances with a female executive might seem to rank pretty low, but we're not talking about just any company here. We're talking about serial bad boy Boeing
Today, the company announced that President and CEO Harry Stonecipher was asked to step down because of a relationship with a female Boeing executive. This is a tricky issue for investors to come to terms with.
Shareholders may skip past the morality and go straight to the hypocrisy. The problem for Stonecipher, and Boeing, is that he was the much-touted return to righteousness. Crooked procurement deals with Air Force insiders? Theft of competitor Lockheed Martin's
Only a couple of weeks ago, I expressed my doubt that ethics did matter much at Boeing. Certainly, the judge who sent ex-CFO Michael Sears to the slammer -- for a short period of time -- had little faith that the folks at Boeing were interested in walking the straight and narrow path. "Business as usual" -- that's how the court described the company's nonchalance regarding the underhanded Air Force refueler deal.
Even more recently, I wondered whether enormous pay packages had anything to do with the shenanigans in certain executive suites. Just how much money does it take to get a CEO to lead by example? I'm serious. Is it too much to ask that someone earning $1.5 million plus options, retirement, and $600,000 worth of relocation fees not cheat on his wife by conducting affairs with his subordinates?
These aren't just idle questions for the navel-gazers out there. If you can't trust managers to live according to their own ethics rules in their personal conduct, can you trust them to give investors straight talk when it's time to report the numbers? Is the Boeing board's quick response to this issue a positive sign? Or can you judge the corporate culture by the behavior of the man hired to make things right?
Investors will need to come to their own conclusions. By my count, Boeing management has just taken strike three.
For related Foolishness:
- Could it really be much worse if we trusted the foreigners on this stuff?
- It's not like the numbers are so great, anyway.
- What happens when rocket men go bad?
Seth Jayson doesn't like to cast stones, but some companies need the lumps. At the time of publication, he had positions in no firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.