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Prosecutors recommend DOJ to charge Boeing over 737 Max crashes, sources say

Prosecutors recommend DOJ to charge Boeing over 737 Max crashes, sources say

Prosecutors recommend DOJ to charge Boeing over 737 Max crashes, sources say

Federal prosecutors are recommending to senior Justice Department officials that Boeing face criminal charges for failing to comply with the terms of a 2021 agreement that would have shielded it from prosecution in connection with the 2018 and 2019 crashes that killed 346 people, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Criminal charges are just one of the options the department has considering and no final decision has been made, one of the sources said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

News of the recommendation was first reported on Sunday by Reuters. Boeing declined to comment.

A lawyer representing the families of those killed in the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in Addis Ababa five months later said they have not received information from prosecutors on how they plan to proceed. .

“The families hope the report is true, and if so, the families hope the career prosecutors’ recommendation will be followed by department leadership,” said Paul G. Cassell, an attorney who is a professor at the University of Utah College of Law and a former judge. federal. “Prosecution is certainly appropriate here because Boeing has already had the opportunity to escape prosecution and default.”

In May, the Justice Department said Boeing had violated the terms of a 2021 “deferred prosecution agreement” that would have allowed the company to avoid prosecution in exchange for meeting a number of conditions.

Since that announcement, prosecutors have weighed how to move forward. While criminal charges are a possibility, the government has other options, including reaching a settlement under a new deferred agreement, levying additional fines and imposing other conditions, including requiring an independent monitor to ensure Boeing meets its obligations. Independent oversight of the company was not part of the 2021 deal. Prosecutors could also opt for a trial. The department faces a July 7 deadline on how to proceed.

The content of discussions between the government and Boeing regarding the outcome was not disclosed.

In the 2021 agreement, Boeing admitted that two of its technical pilots misled federal regulators about a software system blamed for the crashes and paid $2.5 billion in penalties, $500 million of which went to the families of those killed loved ones have died.

Boeing also agreed to strengthen internal fraud detection and reporting systems. If the company meets the terms of the agreement, it would not be prosecuted. The deal expired just two days after a door panel on an Alaska Airlines 737 exploded mid-flight in January, triggering another government criminal investigation that remains ongoing.

The families of the crash victims were shocked and angered by prosecutors’ decision to allow Boeing to avoid prosecution in 2021. Because they were not considered crime victims when prosecutors and Boeing negotiated the settlement, they were not consulted, and many learned the news of to media reports. But relatives later sued and won the right to have the families considered victims of the crime.

The designation meant that prosecutors were required to seek their input on significant actions related to the case. The Justice Department has held several meetings with family members, the most recent last month in which family members expressed their views on how prosecutors should proceed.

In a letter to the Justice Department earlier this month, relatives of the crash victims said Boeing should face an additional $25 billion in fines and the Justice Department should pursue “aggressive prosecution of Boeing “. In addition, they said company executives who were at Boeing at the time of the crash, including former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, should be prosecuted.

“While plea negotiations often occur in other less serious and weaker cases, in this case, any further concessions to Boeing would be completely gratuitous and inappropriate,” the families said.

Last week, Boeing CEO David Calhoun appeared before members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in a contentious hearing in which he was criticized for accepting a payment of more than $32 million despite Boeing’s performance during his tenure or.

Just hours before Calhoun’s appearance, the subcommittee released new accounts from whistleblowers who said Boeing lost track of hundreds of substandard aircraft parts and pushed to eliminate quality inspectors just months after the Lion crash Air from Indonesia.

“Our culture is far from perfect,” Calhoun told lawmakers, “but we are taking action and making progress.”