United Airlines executives resign amid Bridgegate-related corruption probe

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The Scandals United's Ex-CEO Jeff Smisek Leaves Behind


CEO Of United Airlines And FAA Chief Testify To Senate Committee On Air Traffic Control ModernizationThe Bridgegate scandal has yet to take down New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (though it probably didn't help his 2016 chances), but in an unexpected twist, it indirectly sparked the resignation of a handful of top United Airlines executives. Jeff Smisek, chairman and chief executive, Nene Foxhall, executive vice president for communications and government affairs, and Mark R. Anderson, senior vice president for corporate and government affairs, stepped down on Tuesday amid a federal corruption prove into whether the airline launched an unprofitable Newark to Columbia, South Carolina flight solely for the benefit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman, who used the flight for jaunts to his vacation home near Columbia.

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The Port Authority chairman in question is close Christie ally David Samson, who was appointed by the governor in 2010 and stepped down in 2014 over his alleged role in the politically-motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The federal probe initially focused on the bridge scandal, but the investigation has expanded into other forms of suspected corruption at the Port Authority, including the so-called "chairman's flight."

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United Airlines executives resign amid Bridgegate-related corruption probe
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attend "Howard Stern's Birthday Bash" presented by SiriusXM, produced by Howard Stern Productions at Hammerstein Ballroom on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Jon Bon Jovi attend 'Howard Stern's Birthday Bash' presented by SiriusXM, produced by Howard Stern Productions at Hammerstein Ballroom on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
FORT LEE, NJ - JANUARY 09: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters the Borough Hall in Fort Lee to apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich on January 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. According to reports Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is accused of giving a signal to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge, allegedly as punishment for the Fort Lee, New Jersey mayor not endorsing the Governor during the election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
FORT LEE, NJ - JANUARY 09: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves the Borough Hall in Fort Lee where he apologized to Mayor Mayor Mark Sokolich on January 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. According to reports Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is accused of giving a signal to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge, allegedly as punishment for the Fort Lee, New Jersey mayor not endorsing the Governor during the election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
TRENTON, NJ - JANUARY 9: David Wildstein (R) former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority and his attorney Alan Zegas (L) is sworn in to testify at a hearing held by the Assembly Transportation Committee January 9, 2014 in Trenton, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. The committee has subpoenaed David Wildstein former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority to testify about the agency's decision to temporarily close some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee in September 2013. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
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"The departures announced today are in connection with the company's previously disclosed internal investigation related to the federal investigation associated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey," United Airlines said in a statement. "The investigations are ongoing and the company continues to cooperate with the government."

According to the New York Times, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey is investigating whether United agreed to keep the Newark to Columbia flight in return for improvements at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it is the largest carrier. The direct flight was launched in 2011 shortly after Smisek and Samson had dinner in Manhattan, and it was canceled just days after the Port Authority chairman stepped down.

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Smisek will be succeeded by Oscar Munoz, who is a United board member and the former CEO of the railroad company CSX. In a conference call on Tuesday, Munoz acknowledged, "this news is unexpected." "It is certainly a new chapter for United," he continued. "and I hope to make you as optimistic as I am about our future here and the things we can accomplish at the airline. I'm ready to get to work."

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