DOJ Presents Boeing with ‘Sweetheart’ Plea Deal over Fatal Plane Crashes

A Boeing 737. Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department is urging Boeing to plead guilty to fraud charges to avoid a criminal trial stemming from two airplane crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019, Reuters first reported Sunday.

Family members of the victims called it a “sweetheart deal.”

Prosecutors offered the planemaker a plea deal, alleging Boeing violated the terms of a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement following the crashes. 

The terms include pleading guilty to one count of fraud, agreeing to oversight by an independent monitor for three years, and paying more than $240 million in fines.  

If the company declines the plea agreement, it would face a criminal trial. Prosecutors are giving Boeing until the end of the week to decide. 

The Justice Department presented the plan to family members of the 737 Max crash victims on Sunday.

Relatives criticized the deal, saying it failed to hold Boeing accountable, according to Erin Applebaum, one of the lawyers representing victims’ family members.

“The 737 MAX families vigorously oppose the shameful new sweetheart deal between Boeing and the Department of Justice,” Applebaum said. 

Boeing reached a settlement in 2021 after a pair of fatal crashes related to defects in the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft killed nearly 350 people in 2018 and 2019. As part of the settlement, the company was shielded from criminal liability for fraud. In exchange, the company pledged to overhaul its compliance system and pay a $2.5 billion fine. 

Last month, the DOJ found that Boeing violated the agreement.

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