Washington, D.C.--The fight between the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and Harold Liebowitz, its ousted president, appears to be over. This week, NAE officials paid Liebowitz $687,500, and in return he relinquished any claim to the job he held until June. Combined with almost $300,000 in legal fees, the price tag for peace will reach nearly $1 million.
Liebowitz, a former dean and now professor of engineering at George Washington University, was elected on a platform of shaking up the organization and giving members a greater voice in its affairs. But Liebowitz quickly lost the confidence of NAE's governing council, which worried that he was leading the academy into financial distress and jeopardizing relations with its sister, the National Academy of Sciences.
The settlement erases the prospect of a long and costly legal battle. "It could have gone on one, two, or maybe 3 years," says NAE Chair Alan Lovelace. "The real cost would be the disruption of the orderly conduct of business at the academies." The president, who serves a 6-year term, receives approximately $250,000 annually plus benefits, and NAE sources say that Liebowitz, who held office for less than a year, had demanded $1.9 million in lost salary and benefits. Liebowitz could not be reached for comment.
Although Lovelace expects some members to criticize the settlement, he believes that it was the right decision. "You can take the moral high ground and say it is terrible to settle," Lovelace says, "or you can recognize the practical business view that this is the prudent thing to do."