Boeing will get a ‘sweetheart’ plea deal, says lawyer representing 737 Max crash victims | CNN Business (2024)

Boeing will get a ‘sweetheart’ plea deal, says lawyer representing 737 Max crash victims | CNN Business (1)

An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 21, 2019.

CNN

The US Justice Department is nearing an agreement with Boeing that would include a corporate monitor and a fine in exchange for a guilty plea to criminal charges, according to lawyers representing the families of victims of two fatal 737 Max crashes, who harshly rebuked the offer as a “sweetheart deal.”

The criminal charges and potential plea deal come after repeated safety failures at Boeing that have resulted in multiple federal investigations and a sharp rebuke from airlines, customers, lawmakers and regulators. Criminal charges against a major corporation like Boeing are rare and would represent a serious blow to the company’s alreadyprecarious financial situationand further damage itsbattered reputation.

But the victims’ families said they were furious that Boeing may avoid trial, saying the government is letting the company off the hook for the deaths of their loved ones.

“I can tell you that the families are very unhappy and angered with DOJ’s decisions and proposal,” said Robert Clifford, lead counsel in the civil litigation against Boeing, in a statement. “There is no accountability, no admission that Boeing’s admitted crime caused the 346 deaths, and the families will most certainly object before Judge Reed O’Connor and ask that he reject the plea if Boeing accepts.”

Clifford and Paul Cassell represent many family members of the 2018 Lion Air crash and2019 Ethiopian Air crashvictims of Boeing 737 Max jets. They and some of the families they represent were briefed by the Justice Department Sunday about the plea deal.

The deal would include three years of probation, a “small” fine and and a monitor to ensure safety compliance, Cassell told CNN. Other specific terms of the proposed offer were not immediately known, and CNN has not reviewed the proposal first-hand. Bloomberg first reported the potential plea deal Sunday.

Boeing declined to comment, and the Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

Violating Boeing’s previous agreement

Last month, the Justice Department notified Boeing that its recent string of safety failures and production problems constituted a breach of the terms ofits2021 agreement in which the company avoided criminal charges for two fatal 737 Max crashes. Adoor plug blew off an Alaska Airlines flightshortly after takeoff in January, and the investigations that followed revealed a series of quality errors and safety gaps.

As a result, the Department of Justice said Boeing is subject to criminal prosecution, but it has not publicly announced its decision about whether it will prosecute the case. Last week, prosecutors urged the Justice Department to file criminal charges.

Boeing will have by the end of the week to determine whether to accept the plea deal or go to trial. The deadline for the Justice Department to file criminal charges in the case is July 7.

Cassell said the families were upset that the Justice Department deal excluded the prosecution of individuals at Boeing.

“The deal will not acknowledge, in any way, that Boeing’s crime killed 346 people.It also appears to rest on the idea that Boeing did not harm any victim,” Cassell said in a statement.

Although the Justice Department acknowledged the families’ strong desire to take Boeing’s criminal case to trial, the families’ lawyers said the Department of Justice feared it would be unable to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt — the higher standard of proof necessary for a conviction in a criminal trial.

A broken safety culture

More than a dozen whistleblowers have come forward against Boeing in recent years, and the number has grown substantially since thedoor plug incident in January. Last week, for example, a whistleblower from a contractor for Spirit Aerosystems, a Boeing manufacturing partner, said he notified the company of wide gaps in a key part of 787 Dreamliner planes that posed “catastrophic” danger to passengers.

As part of its plan to shore up its safety program, Boeing said it was looking to repurchase Spirit to bring manufacturing of its planes fully in house. Boeing spun off Spirit in 2005. Boeing and Spirit reportedly came to terms on a deal Sunday, according to Reuters, but the deal has not been publicly disclosed and Boeing declined to comment to CNN.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have opened multiple investigations into Boeing because of its ongoing quality and safety failures.

The FAA has said asix-week audit of Boeing’s facilitiesconducted in the late winter found multiple problems with Boeing’s production practices. A separatereportfound “gaps” in Boeing’s safety culture, including a disconnect between management and employees, and fears among employees about retaliation for reporting safety concerns.

Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun earlier this monthapologized for Boeing’s recent safety failuresin testimony delivered to a Senate committee but pushed back on claims the company retaliated against those who brought safety issues to light. Calhoun said Boeing is “far from perfect,” and acknowledged the company will not easily regain the public’s trust.

This story has been updated with additional context and developments.

CNN’s Gregory Wallace, Rashard Rose and Chris Isidore contributed to this report

Boeing will get a ‘sweetheart’ plea deal, says lawyer representing 737 Max crash victims | CNN Business (2024)

FAQs

Boeing will get a ‘sweetheart’ plea deal, says lawyer representing 737 Max crash victims | CNN Business? ›

With Boeing likely to avoid a criminal trial over the 2018 and 2019 crashes for a second time, Paul Cassell — one of the attorneys representing the victim families — described the new agreement as a "sweetheart plea deal." “The families will strenuously object to this plea deal,” Cassell said in a written statement.

What did Boeing get charged with? ›

The U.S. government is waiting to see if Boeing accepts its deal to plead guilty to criminal fraud in connection with two 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

What is the payload of the 737 Max? ›

Looking at the airline's specs, the Boeing 737 MAX beats the A320 with the ability to carry a higher max payload (46,040 lb vs 44,100 lb).

What is the range of the 737 Max? ›

The 737 MAX series has been offered in four variants, with 138 to 204 seats in typical two-class configuration, and a range of 3,300 to 3,850 nautical miles [nmi] (6,110 to 7,130 km; 3,800 to 4,430 mi).

Did Boeing ever compensate families? ›

“We are deeply sorry to all who lost loved ones on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We made an upfront commitment to fully and fairly compensate every family who suffered a loss,” a spokesperson for Boeing said in a statement to The Seattle Times.

Will Boeing face criminal charges? ›

It now appears, according to multiple reports, that the DOJ will in fact bring a new criminal charge against Boeing but give the company the chance to plead guilty in exchange for some conditions. If Boeing chooses not to plead guilty, the DOJ could take the company to trial, according to these reports.

Are Airbus safer than Boeing? ›

Let's take a look at the number of NTSB events per 100k departures over time. The result indicates to me that Boeing has more NTSB events per departure, about 6.5 per 100k departures vs. 3.8 per 100k for Airbus (assuming I haven't made any errors). That's about 1.7x more events per departure than Airbus!

Is the 737 MAX 8 safe now? ›

The Max 8 was the first model in the series to enter service, but it caused Max jets to be grounded worldwide in 2019 following two catastrophic crashes. After software updates and intensive safety checks, they came back into service at the end of 2020 and have been deemed safe by authorities.

What really brought down the Boeing 737 MAX? ›

Both crashes were linked to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a new automatic flight control feature. Investigations into both crashes determined that Boeing and the FAA favored cost-saving solutions, which ultimately produced a flawed design of the MCAS instead.

Can I refuse to fly 737 MAX? ›

Following the January 5 incident, Alaska and United – the US carriers which use the Max 9 – issued waivers allowing passengers unwilling to fly the Max flexibility. These have now expired, but Alaska told CNN that concerned passengers can be rebooked onto a different aircraft for free, by calling reservations.

What is the lifespan of the 737 MAX? ›

According to Boeing, the aircraft in the 737 series have a lifespan of around 55,000 flight hours or 90,000 flight cycles, whichever comes first.

How long can a Boeing 737 stay in the air? ›

How long can a Boeing 737 stay in the air? The most-sold commercial aircraft, the Boeing 737 series, has an average range of between 5,000 and 7,000 km, depending on the variant. With this range, most commercial flights last a maximum of seven hours.

What was Boeing punishment for 737 Max? ›

The DPA provided for the “establishment of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund to compensate the heirs, relatives, and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passengers who died in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes.” The remaining funds included a criminal penalty of $243.6 million and “compensation payments to Boeing's ...

How much money does Boeing get from the government? ›

Boeing Government Revenue Share

In Q1 2024, a combined 47% of Boeing's revenue came from the U.S. government alone. Quarterly company disclosures, as noted above for Lockheed Martin, are not detailed enough to conclusively compute the exact government exposure to non-U.S. sources.

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