From Academic Kids

For other things named TRW, see TRW (disambiguation).
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TRW logo

TRW Incorporated was an American corporation involved in a number of businesses, mostly defense-related, but including automotive supply and credit reporting. On December 12, 2002, Northrop Grumman acquired the defense business, and TRW Automotive, formerly LucasVarity, became a separate company, soon afterwards acquired by The Blackstone Group. Goodrich Corporation acquired TRW's Lucas Aerospace group. The credit reporting business, which was spun off in 1996, is now called Experian.

The remotest origin of the company was in the Cleveland Cap Screw Company founded in 1901, which eventually became Thompson Products. The 1958 merger of Thompson with the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation was named Thompson Ramo Wooldridge Inc., then shortened to TRW Inc. in 1965.

TRW Inc. was active in the early development of missile systems and spacecraft, most notably the NASA deep space satellites Pioneer 10 and 11 which sent information back to Earth for 30 years and continue to travel to the stars. TRW Inc. also pioneered systems engineering.

TRW was one of the first companies to build automobile safety air bags in the 1980s, but problems with the bags forced a recall by Ford Motor in 1990 and 1991. It also ran into asbestos problems, having used the material in the 1970s as brake liners.

The 1999 acquisition of the British aerospace and automotive parts maker LucasVarity doubled the size of TRW's automotive business, but saddled it with so much debt that it had to start selling businesses. The board brought in David Cote as CEO in 2001 to try to turn the business around, but he left in less than a year, with the result that Northrop Grumman was able to conduct a hostile takeover of the defense company. The TRW name survives with the automotive operation.

Controversies and Litigation

During 1974-77, TRW employee Christopher John Boyce sold spy satellite secrets to the Soviet Union via the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. Boyce's father was an aerospace corporation security officer and retired FBI agent who held a 'Top Secret' security clearance and was arrested in 1977. Boyce's childhood friend Andrew Daulton Lee (a heroin and cocaine dealer) was the courier for the classfied data. Lee was arrested in front of the Soviet Embassy on suspicion of having killed a police officer and the police discovered microfilmed classified TRW documents on his person. Under police torture, Lee confessed to spying for the Soviets and then quickly implicated Boyce.

The story of the Boyce-Lee case was told in the best-selling Robert Lindsey book The Falcon and the Snowman the basis for the 1985 film of the same title by director John Schlesinger. Actors Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn played the characters of Boyce and Lee respectively. The book and film describe in detail the strangely lax security measures in place in TRW's Black Vault. Some of these included the repeated consumption of liquor and drugs while inside the vault as well as lack of proper attention to classified material handling, storage and destruction procedures.

Boyce went to prison at age 25 and Lee at 26, each spending half of their lives in prison. In January 1980, Boyce escaped from the federal prison in Lompoc, California and carried out several bank robberies in Idaho and Washington before being captured in Washington in August 1981. He was released from prison on parole in March 2003. His parole will end in 2048. Lee was sentenced to life in prison (his longer sentence was due to the fact he had a long prior criminal record composed primarily of drug-trafficking convictions) and was paroled in 1998.


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