Kai Nip, Contributing Photographer

Yale’s latest Legend in Leadership Award winner, CEO of Duke Energy and member of Boeing’s board of directors Lynn Good, has been named in a lawsuit for negligence for allegedly failing to safely monitor two 737 MAX jets that crashed and killed all passengers onboard.

Lynn Good received the award on Sept. 28 from the School of Management’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute. The Institute recognizes effective leadership and strong personal character among chief executives of major companies. Good won the award for her work at Duke Energy, a major power company headquartered in North Carolina, which has announced several clean energy initiatives over the past few years. But the company has long come under fire for its environmental record. In 2015, two years after Good assumed the role of CEO, it pleaded guilty to federal environmental crimes for coal ash dumps that occurred at five power plants. The company paid $102 million in fines and restitution. Three years later, the company paid an additional penalty for polluting groundwater and rivers.

But Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, SOM associate dean and the Institute’s director, said the award salutes Good’s transformation of Duke Energy from “legacy industry” to “clean energy.” The award adds to the recognition Good has received in the past year from Forbes and FORTUNE magazine as one of the “Most Powerful Women” in business.

“I’m honored to receive the Yale Legend in Leadership Award,” Good wrote in a statement to the News. “Being part of this group over the last year has been invaluable as we make progress on some of the most pressing issues we face as a business community and nation – including climate change. At Duke Energy, our focus is on aggressively removing carbon emissions and partnering with stakeholders to make this clean energy vision possible while maintaining reliability and affordability.”

Sonnenfeld declined to comment on the Boeing negligence lawsuit and Duke Energy’s environmental violations. 

On Sept. 7, one month before Good received Yale’s award, a Delaware Court of Chancery ruled that the Boeing board of directors must face a negligence lawsuit filed by investors for failing to safely monitor two 737 MAX jets which killed 346 people when they crashed nearly three years ago. A Delaware judge ruled that the shareholders may pursue some of their negligence claims against the board.

Duke Energy spokesperson Neil Nissan declined multiple requests for comment on the connection between Good’s work at Duke Energy and her service on the Boeing board. Boeing spokesperson Chris Singley also declined a request for comment.

Sonnenfeld said that Good’s leadership is especially significant because of the many ethical collapses, financial scandals and crises that have historically decreased the public’s trust in authorities. He added that female CEOs are disproportionately targeted and scrutinized by financial investors, making it all the more significant that Good received this award.

“The point of the award is not to celebrate or cleanse companies but rather to showcase effective, high integrity leaders whose character can set a model for others,” Sonnenfeld wrote in an email to the News. “The severity of the challenges of what they inherited is part of what we identify as an element of their leadership accomplishments.”

In Oct. 2018, Lion Air flight 610 — a Boeing 737 MAX jet — crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people. In March 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 — another Boeing 737 MAX jet — crashed in Ethiopia, killing 157 people. The planes used a special maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, which is a major focus of negligence claims.

Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle criminal charges of fraud and conspiracy in Jan. 2021. Good and other Boeing board members must now face a negligence lawsuit alleging that the board was negligent in dealing with and preventing the two deadly crashes.

“Rather than prioritizing safety, defendants lent their oversight authority to Boeing’s agenda of rapid production and profit maximization,” Delaware judge Morgan Zurn wrote in her ruling. “The Lion Air crash was a red flag about MCAS that the board should have heeded but instead ignored. The Board did not request any information about it from management, and did not receive any until November 5, 2018, over one week after it happened.”

In the 120-page complaint, Zurn highlighted quotes from company emails and board meeting records to argue that Boeing was unethical because they did not prioritize the safety of their passengers and crew. 

In addition, Zurn concluded that Boeing misled the public in media interviews following the two crashes. Zurn cited quotes from several Boeing board members, but Good was not mentioned specifically. 

“The Board publicly lied about if and how it monitored the 737 Max’s safety,” Zurn wrote in her ruling.

Still, Indra Nooyi SOM ’80, former CEO of PepsiCo, who co-presented the award to Good, highlighted that Good has managed to successfully run a large company — Duke Energy — in the midst of a “rapidly shifting consumer global demand” for clean energy and social justice. She added that Good has done so with “intelligence” and “grace.”

Good was also recognized for being responsible for redirecting Duke Energy’s focus from carbon-intensive utilities to clean energy. According to Darius Adamczyk, CEO of Honeywell International who co-presented the award to Good, under Good’s leadership, Duke Energy is on track to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Lynn is one of the energy sector’s most forward-looking leaders, focused on customers and environmental responsibility, and she will be an excellent addition to our board,” former Boeing CEO James McNerney said in 2015. “She is a strategic thinker who is leading a large, complex company through a period of great change.”

Good was a board member of the Cincinnati Ballet for eight years in the 1990s.

EDA AKER
Eda Aker is a first year in Timothy Dwight College.