A couple of years ago Boeing had a problem. Their CEO Philip M. Condit, was involved in a scandal involving a fuel-tanker contract with the Pentagon. So in December 2003 he stepped down and Harry Stonechipher was lured out of retirement to take on the role of CEO.

Stonechipher made a concerted effort paint Boeing as an ethical organization (especially in the wake of the scandal) However, many people saw Stonechipher as a caretaker CEO and it looks like he was taking care of business - but just the wrong kind.


Stonecipher has been shoved out the side exit (not sure if he was given a parachute) because of an affair with a female executive.

But according to a spokesman it wasn't the fact that he was having an affair:

It's not the fact that he was having an affair," said Boeing's chairman, Lewis E. Platt, in a conference call with analysts and investors. "That is not a violation of our code of conduct. But as we explored the circumstances surrounding the affair, we just thought there were some issues of poor judgment that as I said earlier impaired his ability to lead going forward."

Got that? It's ok to fly the friendly skies but make sure that you use proper judgment. I would hope that the company's policy is clear on that or otherwise lawsuits might be imminent.

And what of his partner who is reported as an "executive" is she being fired? It's not as if she was a low level employee. An executive implies that there is a certain level of intelligence and judgment.

One has to wonder what exactly they did if the actual act of the affair wasn't the cause of the firing of Mr. Stonecipher.

Perhaps they joined the mile high club? Perhaps they used the wrong boardroom?

As a side note a former Account Executive for a large furniture manufacturer once told me that all boardroom tables were given what he called the "two person test" before leaving the factory. That is to say they were tested to make sure they could support the weight of two people.

But Stonecipher's firing apparently points to a sea change of sorts in the corporate world. Used to be that office romance was looked upon as an inevitability even though everyone said don't do it.

Now it seems that everyone can hook up except the CEO:

"U.S. companies are more sensitized to concerns about abuse of corporate power and the growing gap between average CEO pay and that of rank-and-file workers, making many of them tougher on a host of ethical issues, said William Guth, professor emeritus of management and strategy at New York University.

'At the average CEO compensation levels, these guys should be walking on water and be squeaky clean in addition to being very competent,' he said. 'If you paid them more realistically, then I'd think you'd have to tolerate more variance in behavior.'
Corporate chiefs likely won't get much sympathy if they're discovered to be having affairs, Guth said. 'The examinations will go up and the tolerance for error will go down.'

In other words get paid or get laid. But you can't have both.

BTW Boeing has a blog, which has no mention of the firing.

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