NewsNotables – Issue 44

Former Boeing Chairman Platt Dies at 64

The Seattle Times, September 9 – 10, 2005
Lewis “Lew” Platt, a director and former chairman of Boeing who also served as chief executive at Hewlett-Packard in the 1990s, died in early September at the age of 64. Mr. Platt, who joined the Boeing board in 1999, was thrust into a visible role at the company as it worked to overcome ethical lapses. He became non-executive chairman when then CEO Phil Condit abruptly resigned in December 2003 amid defense-contracting scandals that ultimately sent two executives to jail.

Harry Stonecipher, Boeing’s retired president, was brought back as CEO, to restore Boeing’s image. But Platt’s efforts to restore order at the company were dealt a setback in March when Stonecipher resigned after admitting an affair with a female Boeing executive. Platt served as non-executive chairman until W. James McNerney was appointed chairman and CEO in June. McNerney stated, “Lew shepherded Boeing with strength, grace, dignity, and integrity through a period when the company most needed his steady hand.”

Platt worked for HP for 33 years, starting as an entry-level employee in the company’s medical products group in 1966. Shortly after his appointment as CEO in 1992, he succeeded David Packard as HP’s chairman, serving until he left the company in 1999. Mark Hurd, HP’s current president and CEO stated, “Lew cared deeply for HP and its people, and his loss is being felt widely across our company. He was a natural leader who was enormously well liked and made an enduring impression on those he encountered.”

Comment: In recent times in our nation we have heard of a number of CEOs who have abused their positions with corruption. It’s refreshing to hear the accolades accredited to Lew Platt of being a natural leader with strength, grace, dignity, and integrity. Lew has truly left an enduring impression on those he encountered. We need more Lew Platts. Platt was featured in the Ethix Conversation shortly after leaving HP in Ethix 10, April 2000.

Vinton Cerf Joins Google

The Seattle Times, from Knight Ridder Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2005
Adding to its all-star roster of engineering talent, Google has hired Vinton Cerf, often referred to as the Father of the Internet. Cerf, who was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton in 1997, joins Google from MCI, where he is a senior vice president of technology strategy. Google said that Cerf will become a vice president and “chief Internet evangelist.”

Cerf begins work at Google in October along with his chief of staff from MCI. Cerf’s focus at MCI has been on public-policy issues. He said he hungers to return to developing applications. He rattled off a list of “half-baked ideas,” including being able to index information based on geography, improving the relevance of search results and building sophisticated applications related to voice communications on the Internet.

Comment: Cerf joining Google will likely fuel speculation that the company is planning to build its own worldwide broadband network, possibly resulting in a free WiFi service. He was featured in the Ethix Conversation in September/October 2005.

Relaxed ID Rules Could Invite Financial Fraud

USA Today, September 28, 2005
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, banks are walking a tenuous line between getting money quickly to people who have no identification and not falling prey to fraud. Bank and credit union regulators have asked financial institutions to waive fees and loosen rules on verifying customers. Their goal is to help hurricane victims who fled their homes with no bank card or driver’s license.

A real concern is that relaxing rules could entice artists to try cashing fraudulent checks and enhance identity theft (see News Notables on identity theft in the most recent Ethix issue). The number of displaced people along with the huge number of checks entering the banking system, make conditions ripe for fraud.

Many banks are still grappling with immediate concern such as restoring operations and serving displaced customers. “The challenge is really down the line,” says Doug Johnson, of the American Bankers Association. “At the moment, banks are just trying to do the right thing for customers.”

Comment: This situation creates a Catch-22 for banking institutions effected in the South. At one end of the spectrum, it sounds great to help the hurricane victims, but on the other end, bank fraud and identity theft could run rampant. Obviously, some middle ground must be found.

From Prison to CEO

The Seattle Times, October 15, 2005
The founder of Fog Cutter Capital Group has been reappointed chairman and chief executive after his release from federal prison. After more than 14 months in federal custody, Andrew Wiederhorn returned to Portland this week and was immediately reappointed to the helm of the merchant banking company. Wiederhorn will be allowed to work at Fog Cutter during the day but must live at a halfway house until November 22. He went to prison for his role in the Capital Consultants scandal.

Comment: Here is one company that looks like it doesn’t take ethics very seriously. It will be interesting to watch their progress in the marketplace.

By Roger Eigsti
Board President,
Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics