Feds Will Recommend Criminal Charges Against Boeing

Feds Will Recommend Criminal Charges Against Boeing

U.S. prosecutors will recommend to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that criminal charges be brought against Boeing for the company’s breach of a settlement agreement involving two deadly plane crashes, according to a report from Reuters Monday.

The recommendation doesn’t mean that any charges will ultimately be brought against Boeing, since the DOJ has until July 7 to make a final decision. The new report from Reuters cites two unnamed sources at DOJ who describe the process as “ongoing” while noting that “no final decisions have been reached.”

Boeing and DOJ entered into a settlement agreement in 2021 following two crashes in the late 2010s of Boeing’s new 737 Max planes. The first Boeing 737 Max crash in 2018 killed 189 in Indonesia and another in 2019 killed 157 in Ethiopia. Boeing initially blamed “pilot error” in both cases, but after government investigations, it was revealed faulty software caused the nose of the new planes to pitch down in a way that pilots couldn’t easily correct.

Investigations following the crashes revealed Boeing employees talked about how they wouldn’t even let their own family members fly on some newer Boeing planes given the safety lapses.

“Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one Boeing employee wrote in an email from February 2018, roughly six months before the crash in Indonesia.

The crashes were bad enough, but Boeing made headlines again earlier this year after a door plug just fell off the plane during an Alaska Airlines flight. The FBI sent passengers on that flight letters informing them they may have been victims of a crime.

DOJ announced last month that Boeing had violated the terms of the settlement that allowed the company to avoid criminal prosecution. The settlement, which included a $US2.5 billion penalty, alleged Boeing had committed fraud against the Federal Aviation Administration and required the plane maker to establish more strict compliance and ethics rules.

The Reuters report appears to contradict reporting from the New York Times last week suggesting Boeing wouldn’t face criminal charges. That article said Boeing may be set up with a deferred prosecution agreement that simply sets up more compliance checks and perhaps a larger fine. Families of the victims in the fatal crashes of 2018 and 2019 have expressed a desire to see Boeing prosecuted criminally.

Whatever ultimately happens for Boeing, it’s still bad news for a company that went from being a symbol of quality craftsmanship to a punchline synonymous with dangerous products in just a few short years. Late-night hosts regularly mock the company and people on social media frequently make jokes about how flying on a Boeing aircraft is unsafe. Several websites have even popped up allowing passengers to check if their scheduled flight uses a Boeing plane.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun announced in March he’d eventually be stepping down but testified at congressional hearings on June 18 about his company’s problems while apologizing to the families of those killed in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing didn’t immediately respond to questions emailed Monday morning. Gizmodo will update this post if we hear back.

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