Boeing Gets ‘Sweetheart Deal’ On Fraud Charges, Leaving Victim Families Angry

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) is preparing to charge Boeing with fraud related to two fatal crashes involving the 737 Max aircraft.

Boeing is under intense scrutiny as the DoJ considers charging the aerospace giant with fraud due to two devastating crashes five years ago. However, a potential plea deal has sparked outrage among the families of the 346 victims of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The proposed plea deal terms include a fine for Boeing, a three-year probation period, and oversight by a corporate monitor. During a conference call on Sunday, these terms were shared with the victims’ families, leading to widespread anger and frustration. Attorneys representing the families accused the federal government of negotiating “another sweetheart plea deal” with Boeing. “The memory of 346 innocents killed by Boeing demands more justice than this,” declared Paul Cassell, representing the families of 15 crash victims.

Erin Applebaum, another attorney for the victims’ families, labelled the proposal as “shameful” and said it “completely fails to mention or recognize the dignity” of the victims.

Applebaum also noted that the families would appeal to a judge and the public to reject the deal, arguing that the DoJ would face their lack of accountability if another Boeing crash occurred. The 737 Max crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 led to the jet’s global grounding for nearly two years. In 2021, Boeing and the DoJ reached a deferred prosecution agreement that protected the company from criminal conspiracy charges related to fraud. However, a recent emergency landing incident due to a cabin panel blowout has prompted the DoJ to reconsider this agreement.

The current plea deal suggests that Boeing should be independently monitored by the DoJ rather than appointing its corporate monitor. Sanjiv Singh, counsel for 16 families of crash victims, criticized the deal as a “sweetheart deal.” Cassell described the agreement as a “no-accountability deal” that fails to acknowledge Boeing’s responsibility for the deaths of 346 people. “The deal will not acknowledge, in any way, that Boeing’s crime killed 346 people,” Cassell emphasized.

“It also appears to rest on the idea that Boeing did not harm any victim.”

Boeing continues to face the fallout from January’s cabin blowout incident, which exposed major manufacturing and quality issues and led to several investigations. The incident significantly impacted Boeing, with shares plummeting by about a third this year and a projected cash burn of $8 billion in the first half of 2024 due to production slowdowns.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has limited 737 Max production and requires Boeing to create a plan to address these quality issues. Amid these challenges, Boeing is seeking a new CEO, as Dave Calhoun plans to step down later this year.

In 2021, Boeing paid a fine and admitted to deceiving the FAA about a flight control system tied to the crashes. It promised to improve safety and report to the DoJ. The government agreed to drop the charges after three years. However, the recent blowout incident has led the DoJ to reconsider the deal, casting doubt on Boeing’s future.

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