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Boeing Agrees to Plead Guilty in Boeing 737 MAX Crashes

DALLAS – Boeing has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve a criminal investigation into the two fatal 737 MAX crashes. Under the terms of the plea deal, which requires court approval, Boeing will plead guilty to a criminal charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay a fine of $243.6 million.

This settlement marks a major turning point following the two devastating crashes of Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft in 2018 and 2019, which tragically took the lives of 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

ET-AXG, Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX @KBFI. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

Key Aspects of the Plea Deal

  • Financial Penalty: Boeing will be fined an additional $243.6 million, matching the amount paid in the 2021 settlement. Additionally, the company will invest at least $455 million over the next three years to strengthen its safety and compliance programs.
  • Independent Oversight: The agreement mandates an independent monitor to oversee Boeing's compliance with safety regulations for a period of three years. This monitor will file annual public reports detailing progress.
  • Family Meeting: As part of the deal, Boeing's board of directors will be required to meet with representatives of the families who lost loved ones in the crashes.
PK-LRI Lion Air Boeing 737-9 MAX WIMM KNO. Photo: Wilbert Tana/Airways

Criticism, Potential Impact

While the plea deal avoids a potentially lengthy and damaging trial, it has drawn criticism from some victims' families who sought harsher punishment. The settlement amount of $243.6 million falls far short of the $24.8 billion sought by the families. The Justice Department acknowledged this opposition in its court filing.

However, families of the victims who lost loved ones in the crashes have filed an objection to the plea deal, according to Reuters. Their opposition stems from a previous statement by Judge O'Connor, who called Boeing's actions "potentially the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history."

The settlement also raises questions about Boeing's future ability to secure government contracts. However, the company may be able to seek waivers to mitigate this potential impact.

The settlement paves the way for Boeing to move forward under new leadership, with a CEO transition expected later this year. The company is also pursuing the acquisition of Spirit AeroSystems, and this agreement could facilitate the approval process.

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