DOJ to offer Boeing plea agreement amid potential fraud charges — crash victims’ families slam ‘sweetheart’ deal

News & Politics

The Department of Justice is preparing to offer Boeing a plea deal that would require the company to plead guilty to conspiring to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration in connection with two fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people, Reuters reported.

The DOJ claims that Boeing violated a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement with the department, a source told the news outlet. As part of the agreement, a criminal charge against Boeing was dropped, and the company was asked to revise its compliance practices and submit to routine reporting. The aerospace company also agreed to pay $2.5 billion to end the investigation.

In May, the DOJ accused Boeing of violating the terms of the agreement, stating that it failed to “design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws throughout its operations.”

Boeing disagreed with the DOJ’s findings, claiming it has “honored the terms” of the agreement.

The relatives of those killed in the two crashes were briefed on the proposed settlement on Sunday. According to their attorney, they are urging U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor to reject what they have called a “sweetheart” deal for Boeing.

Paul Cassell, a lawyer representing the relatives, said, “The Justice Department is preparing to offer Boeing another sweetheart plea deal.”

“The families will strenuously object to this plea deal,” Cassell noted.

The plea deal would require the company to plead guilty to conspiring to defraud the FAA. Boeing would have to pay half of a $487.2 million penalty, with prosecutors allowing the company to receive credit for previous settlement payments. Additionally, Boeing would have to meet with the relatives and submit to third-party audits for three years.

Boeing and the DOJ declined a request for comment, Reuters reported.

Anything else?

Boeing faced further scrutiny in January after one of its aircraft experienced a mid-flight door panel blowout. A preliminary U.S. National Transportation Safety Board report found that the Alaska Airlines plane may have left the Boeing factory without the key bolts needed to secure the panels in place. The NTSB’s investigation discovered that Spirit AeroSystems, a fuselage maker, had performed maintenance work on the aircraft before delivering it to the airline. The maintenance required the door panel to be removed and reinstalled.

On Monday, Boeing announced that it plans to buy back Spirit AeroSystems, its former subsidiary. The company aims to improve safety and quality control at the struggling company. Boeing agreed to pay $37.25 per share for a value of $4.7 billion.

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