SEC Joins Probe Into Controversy That Brought Down United Chief

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the business dealings that led to the downfall of United Continental Holdings Inc.’s chief executive officer in September, the airline said, adding to a previously announced federal probe.

Former CEO Jeff Smisek and two other United executives were ousted while investigators examined the airline’s ties to the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. In a filing Thursday, United clarified that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey was behind the original probe.

The airline said it was cooperating with both investigations and couldn’t predict what actions the government authorities might take. The SEC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment made by telephone and e-mail.

U.S. prosecutors have been probing the relationship between United and former Port Authority chief David Samson, who quit in March 2014. He has been under investigation for possible conflicts of interest at the agency, and authorities have sought information about a United flight between Newark, New Jersey, and Columbia, South Carolina, near where Samson’s wife has a home. United ended that flight days after Samson left the Port Authority.

United quickly replaced Smisek with Oscar Munoz, who suffered a heart attack just over a month after taking office. He has since had a heart transplant procedure and is expected to return as early as the end of the current quarter.

Separately, United disclosed that it received a civil investigative demand from the Department of Justice concerning its U.S. mail contract. Spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the company believes it is an industry-wide probe related to compliance with international mail-scanning requirements.

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