Justice Department says Boeing violated 2021 737 Max deal

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen outside a Boeing factory on March 25, 2024 in Renton, Washington.

Stephen Brashear | fake images

boeing violated a 2021 agreement that protected it from criminal charges related to the fatal 737 Max crashes, opening the company to possible prosecution in the United States, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing in Texas that they are still determining “how to proceed in this matter” and that Boeing will have 30 days to respond.

The plane maker broke the agreement by “failing to design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of U.S. fraud laws throughout its operations,” the Justice Department said.

Boeing denied those claims.

“We believe we have met the terms of that agreement and look forward to having the opportunity to respond to the Department on this matter,” Boeing said.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle a conspiracy charge with the Justice Department. After a roughly two-year investigation, the Justice Department accused the company of withholding information about its Max plane that had been involved in two crashes that claimed the lives of all 346 people on board.

Boeing had admitted that two of its 737 Max technical pilots “misled” the Federal Aviation Administration about the capabilities of a flight control system on the planes that was later implicated in the two crashes, the Justice Department said in that moment.

“This is a positive first step, and for families, it will be a long time coming. But we need the Department of Justice to take more steps to hold Boeing accountable, and we plan to use our May 31 meeting to explain in more detail what we believe. “It would be a satisfactory remedy for Boeing's ongoing criminal conduct,” Paul Cassell, an attorney for the families of the crash victims, said in a statement Tuesday.

The plane maker has been under increased federal scrutiny after a door panel on a 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines exploded in midair on Jan. 5. A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said the bolts holding the door stopper, which fills an optional emergency exit, did not appear to be in place.

The near-tragedy has created a new crisis for Boeing, just as it was trying to stabilize its production and improve its reputation after the 2018 and 2019 accidents.

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