US Officials: Boeing Breached 2021 Criminal Prosecution Deal Over 737 MAX Crashes

By Jose Resurreccion

May 14, 2024 09:31 PM EDT

US Officials: Boeing Breached 2021 Criminal Prosecution Deal Over 737 MAX Crashes
A person walks past an unpainted Boeing 737-8 MAX parked at Renton Municipal Airport adjacent to Boeing's factory in Renton, Washington on January 25, 2024.
(Photo : JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States Justice Department said late Tuesday (May 14) that Boeing allegedly breached its obligations in a 2021 agreement that prevented the company from facing criminal prosecution over a fatal string of 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed close to 350 people. 

Reuters reported that prosecutors from Attorney General Merrick Garland's office filed a lawsuit in a Texas court, saying that the company failed to "design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program" that would have prevented and detected issues that could have violated US fraud laws in its operations. 

The lawsuit was also filed after relatives of the people killed in the crashes, and their lawyers argued that Boeing violated the 2021 agreement, in which the company agreed to pay $2.5 billion, as well as an agreement to compensate victims' relatives. 

The court filing also contained a letter in which Justice Department criminal division chief Glenn Leon told Boeing to explain the nature and circumstances of the breach and demanded the aviation firm do so by June 13. 

The Justice Department added that Boeing would be subject to prosecution but has been determining how to proceed as they await whether Boeing will respond to their demands. Whether or not the company responds, government prosecutors will decide by July 7 whether to take the case to court.

It has since declined to comment further.

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Federal prosecutors previously agreed to ask a judge to defer the criminal charge against Boeing for three years if it complied with the deal's terms. 

The deal was apparently put in jeopardy last January when a door panel blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9. 

Reporters were unable to receive any immediate response from Boeing about the matter. 

On the other hand, Paul Cassell, a barrister representing families of passengers who perished in the 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia, told the Associated Press that the Justice Department's move to demand an explanation from Boeing was a "positive first step" and "a long time coming" for the families. 

Meanwhile, Boeing's Starliner capsule's crewed launch has been postponed again to May 21 after technicians found an issue with its propulsion system.

READ MORE: Boeing's Statements on Safety Practices Being Investigated by SEC After Side Panel Breaks Off Plane

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