Conflict of Interest? Obama Transit Board Chair Investigating Husband's Company's Competitor

President Barack Obama’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairwoman has an apparent conflict of interest with regard to her recent regulatory activity grounding Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner planes.

Financial disclosure documents for NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman (pictured) obtained by Breitbart News show she and her husband have hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets from Lockheed Martin.

Hersman lists up to $15,000 in Lockheed stock she and her husband own and hundreds of thousands more in a Lockheed savings plan she and her husband share.

According to several news reports, Hersman has been at the center of the administration’s efforts to investigate issues with Boeing’s Dreamliner planes after a recent incident with them in Boston. When a Japan Airlines 787 plane landed at Logan International Airport in early January, a battery caught fire and the cabin filled with smoke. 

NTSB launched an investigation into the matter, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all of Boeing’s Dreamliner planes in the process. The NTSB and the FAA will not allow Boeing’s test pilots to test the planes to figure out what’s wrong, despite Boeing’s request to do so.

The Daily Beast’s Clive Irving notes that “aviation industry insiders” have been “surprised by the bluntness of public statements made by Hersman” when it comes to this investigation. 

“Last week at the NTSB headquarters in Washington, Hersman opened the lab to reporters to display the charred remnants of the battery and its casing, an unusually vivid public move. And, as she has all along, she emphasized—three times—that any potential source of fire aboard an airplane cannot be tolerated,” Irving wrote. 

“Perhaps more significantly, Hersman is directing the NTSB investigation to look into the role of its far larger fellow agency, the Federal Aviation Administration. Specifically, into how the whole 787 battery system came to be certified safe to fly by the FAA.”

Hersman, a Capitol Hill veteran who worked for Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia--who is considering holding hearings on the matter--was first appointed chairwoman of the NTSB in 2009. An original board member appointee of former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama named her back to the board in 2009 and named her chairwoman.

In a June 2011 letter also obtained by Breitbart News, Hersman wrote to the NTSB’s designated agency ethics official William C. Love to officially inform him of her assets in Lockheed and her husband’s employment at the Boeing rival. 

“As required by 18 U.S.C. § 208(a), I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests or those of any other person whose interests are imputed to me, unless I first obtain a written waiver pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 208(b)(1), or qualify for a regulatory exemption, pursuant to U.S.C. § 208(b)(2),” Hersman wrote to the ethics official. 

“I understand that the interests of my spouse; minor children; any general partner of a partnership in which I am a limited or general partner; any organization in which I serve as officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee; and any person or organization with which I am negotiating or have an arrangement concerning prospective employment, are imputed to me.”

Those laws Hersman cited in her letter pertain to government officials and conflicts of interest.

Hersman went on to detail what her husband does for Boeing’s competitor. “My spouse is employed as a software engineer by Lockheed Martin Corporation (Lockheed), a position for which he receives a fixed annual salary,” Hersman wrote. “I will not participate in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my spouse’s compensation or employment with Lockheed.”

In an email statement to Breitbart News, Kelly Nantel of NTSB denied that her agency found any conflict of interest regarding Hersman: "The NTSB’s ethics attorneys have reviewed Chairman Hersman’s participation in the Boeing battery investigation. They concluded that her participation is fully consistent with her Ethics Agreement, dated June 29, 2011. Her Ethics Agreement clearly sets forth the steps she will take to 'avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest.'”

Hersman is scheduled to give a press conference on the Boeing matter on Thursday, at which time the agency said she senior staff will take questions from members of the news media.


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