Two longtime Boeing Co. directors are stepping down as the aerospace giant’s board undergoes further changes in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Chicago-based planner announced the retirement of Susan Schwab and Arthur Collins on Wednesday. The company is not expected to immediately appoint new directors to the board, one of those people said. The departure of the directors could be announced as early as Wednesday, the person said.
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Mr. Collins, former managing director of medical device maker Medtronic PLC, has been a member of the Boeing board since 2007. Ms. Schwab, a former U.S. sales representative, has served on the board since 2010.
The departures have been considered in recent weeks and are part of a longer-term campaign to attract new directors to the board after the MAX crisis, some people familiar with the matter have said. Four members of the planned 10-member board of directors will have been added after the accidents.
Boeing’s board of directors has come under close scrutiny by U.S. investors and lawmakers since two of its 737 MAXs crashed in October 2018 and March 2019, killing 346. A year ago, the board added two new directors with safety and engineering backgrounds as two longtime members resigned. Since the accidents, Boeing’s board of directors has also added a standing safety committee and divided the roles of chairman and chief executive officer.
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The crashes led to the plane’s nearly two-year grounding before U.S. regulators allowed it to resume passenger flights late last year. The MAX crisis, which Boeing says will cost it around $ 20 billion, has since been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic’s blow to global air travel and demand for new commercial airliners.
Current and former Boeing directors and officers during the MAX crisis face a shareholder lawsuit that alleges lax board oversight between accidents and their consequences.
The lawsuit, filed in the Delaware Chancellery Court, cites internal Boeing documents and partially claims that the company’s board did not challenge then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg over safety from 737 MAX. He also alleges that current CEO David Calhoun subsequently exaggerated to reporters the extent of board oversight between and following the two crashes.
The company seeks to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it lacks merit and “presents a misleading and incomplete picture” of Boeing’s actions and board oversight. Boeing said the trial predictably provided a distorted account of Mr. Calhoun’s interviews, saying the board’s extensive and active oversight was accurately explained in those media interviews.
Boeing’s board of directors is made up of recently added and long-serving directors. Mr. Calhoun has been a director since 2009 before becoming CEO early last year. Boeing chairman is former airline executive Larry Kellner, who has served on the board since 2011.
A year ago, Boeing added Akhil Johri, former CFO of aerospace maker United Technologies Corp., and Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. They took over from longtime directors who have resigned.
Former US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, director since 2017, has since resigned. She was replaced by Lynne Doughtie, head of US operations at the audit firm KPMG. Retired Naval Admiral John Richardson was appointed to the Board of Directors in October 2019.
Last year, two proxy advisory firms raised questions about oversight of board members and recommended shareholders vote against certain Boeing directors to protest their handling of the MAX crisis. At last year’s annual meeting, five board members faced substantial opposition, but overall won a majority in the shareholders’ election.
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