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updated 3/9/2005 6:56:14 PM ET 2005-03-09T23:56:14

As Boeing Co.'s interim leader tried to reassure investors Wednesday, the aerospace giant said it might take action against the female executive whose affair led to this week's ouster of chief executive Harry Stonecipher.

Spokesman John Dern said the company has no timetable for completing an investigation of the female executive, and he declined to provide any other specifics. But a posting on Boeing’s internal employee Web site acknowledged that “many employees have asked” why the woman who was involved in the relationship remains with the company while Stonecipher was asked  to resign.

“General Counsel Doug Bain said that while the investigation of Stonecipher is complete, the investigation of the female executive’s actions surrounding the matter is still in process,” said the posting, obtained by The Associated Press. “If the facts of the completed investigation indicate that action is warranted, it will be taken, Bain said.”

A Boeing source with knowledge of the investigation said management is examining the woman’s recent travel, expenses on her company credit card and any other areas where inappropriate conduct might have occurred.

The woman was identified Tuesday by BusinessWeek Online, citing anonymous sources, as Debra Peabody, a 48-year-old divorced executive who reportedly first met Stonecipher in January at Boeing’s annual executive retreat in Palm Desert, Calif. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times also named Peabody.

Peabody, who manages office operations for Boeing in Washington and worked earlier for the company in Chicago, did not return telephone calls Wednesday. Boeing declined to confirm or deny she was the female executive involved.

In New York, interim chief executive James Bell met with investors at a previously scheduled conference and said Boeing expects to win $25 billion in Pentagon orders this year although he said growth is slowing because of presuure to trim the nation's defense budget.

He said Boeing's defense and commercial aerospace business remain on track after a Stonecipher's 15-month tenure, which was credited with helping to rebuild the company's credibility after a series of scandals.

“What I’d like you all to understand is that with Harry leaving there’s still 150,000-strong at the Boeing Company that are still focused on those ideals,” he said. “Clearly the performance we’ve seen over the last 15 months is what we expect to continue to deliver to you all going forward.”

Stonecipher, 68, resigned Sunday at the request of directors after acknowledging the affair, which initially was reported to company officials in a letter from an employee that included a packet of supporting evidence including e-mails between the two lovers.

Chairman Lew Platt, who praised Stonecipher's performance at Boeing even while announcing his ouster, said the dismissal was prompted not by the consensual relationship itself but by a violation of the company's code of conduct, which states in part that employees shall not do anything that “may cause embarrassment to the company.”

Boeing officials have not disclosed more details. But the company source said Wednesday that “inappropriate” e-mail exchanges between the two “played a part” in Stonecipher’s ouster.

Bell, who is not under consideration for permanent appointment as CEO, said he had taken himself out of the running.

“If there are any CEOs in the audience, they know why I don’t want the job,” he said.

“For a business like Boeing we need someone with pretty significant operating experience background,” he added, noting that 15 months ago he had been the company’s controller.

He was elevated to chief financial officer to replace Michael Sears, who is now in jail for his role in illegally recruiting a top Air Force official for a Boeing job.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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