Boeing Admits Guilt in 737 Max Crashes, Evades Criminal Prosecution

  • Cedrick Stehr
  • July 9, 2024 03:03pm
  • 248

In a major legal development, Boeing has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in connection with the two deadly 737 Max crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people. However, the company has avoided criminal prosecution under a deferred prosecution agreement.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Boeing have reached a plea agreement resolving the criminal investigation into the company's role in the two fatal crashes of its 737 Max aircraft. Under the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, Boeing has admitted to defrauding the FAA by concealing critical information about the aircraft's flight control system.

Boeing Admits Guilt in 737 Max Crashes, Evades Criminal Prosecution

Boeing Admits Guilt in 737 Max Crashes, Evades Criminal Prosecution

The agreement requires Boeing to pay a criminal fine of $243.6 million, forfeit $1.77 billion to the DOJ in compensation for wrongful gains, and establish a $500 million fund to compensate victims' families. The company is also subject to three years of independent compliance monitoring by a court-appointed monitor.

However, under the deferred prosecution agreement, Boeing will not face criminal charges. The DOJ has agreed to dismiss the conspiracy charge if the company meets all the terms of the agreement over the next three years. This decision has drawn criticism from some who believe that Boeing should have been held criminally responsible for the deaths caused by its negligence.

The two 737 Max crashes occurred within five months of each other in 2018 and 2019. On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 passengers and crew. On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed near Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.

Both crashes were attributed to a faulty flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). MCAS was designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling, but it activated erroneously in both cases, causing the planes to nosedive uncontrollably.

Investigators found that Boeing had intentionally withheld critical information about MCAS from the FAA during the aircraft's certification process. The company also failed to adequately train pilots on the system's risks.

The DOJ's investigation concluded that Boeing had "willfully and knowingly" defrauded the FAA by concealing material information that could have affected the agency's safety assessment of the 737 Max.

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide for 20 months after the second crash. Boeing has since implemented design changes and improved pilot training to address the safety concerns.

The families of the victims have filed numerous lawsuits against Boeing, seeking compensation for their loved ones' deaths. Boeing has agreed to pay billions of dollars in settlements and is facing ongoing legal challenges.

Boeing's plea agreement marks a significant step in the legal proceedings surrounding the 737 Max crashes. While the company has admitted to wrongdoing, it has escaped criminal prosecution. The deferred prosecution agreement raises questions about corporate accountability and the adequacy of civil penalties for such egregious negligence that led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

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