Boeing’s request for a federal stimulus package amid the widening economic crisis has caused a rift in the aerospace giant’s board of directors, with one of its most high-profile directors resigning Thursday.
Nikki Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina governor, said in a letter to Boeing’s chief executive that she does not believe it is the federal government’s role to give financial assistance to some companies and industries and not others.
“While I know cash is tight, that is equally true for numerous other industries and for millions of small businesses,” she said in the letter, which Boeing included in a regulatory filing. “I cannot support a move to lean on the federal government for a stimulus or bailout that prioritizes our company over others and relies on taxpayers to guarantee our financial position.”
In a statement, a Boeing spokesman said, “We appreciate her service on the board and wish her well.” A spokeswoman for Haley declined to comment or make her available for comment.
President Donald Trump said in a news conference Tuesday that he supports a bailout for Boeing, which has been reeling from the combined economic fallout of the global coronavirus pandemic and a prolonged safety crisis involving its flagship commercial jetliner.
Boeing said earlier this week that it supports $60 billion in assistance for the aerospace industry. The federal aid would help Boeing pay suppliers “to maintain the health of the supply chain,” the company said.
The aerospace industry wasn’t mentioned in a massive economic stimulus bill introduced by Senate Republicans on Thursday, which includes $50 billion in “loans and loan guarantees” for passenger airlines; $8 billion for “cargo air carriers;” and $150 billion for other “eligible businesses,” a category administration officials have suggested could include the hotel and cruise industries.
Boeing’s request for governmental help comes as the company global air traffic is expected to decline and airline customers plan to push off new orders of jets. On March 13, the company drew out the full amount of its $13.8 billion private loan, citing concerns about whether it would have access to cash should the markets worsen. It also halted new hires.
The company’s stock price has dropped 34% this week.
Haley joined Boeing’s board a year ago, just after the second crash of a 737 Max jet sent the company into a crisis. Before joining the board, she had opposed efforts by Boeing employees to unionize in South Carolina when she was governor of the state.
Boeing’s board has been criticized for lack of independent oversight of the company’s leadership. Last year, responding to these concerns, the company established an independent board chairman with more authority over Boeing’s chief executive. Two months later, the board pushed out CEO Dennis Muilenburg and replaced him with the chairman, David Calhoun.
The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein and Aaron Gregg contributed to this report.