US Prosecutors Suggest Criminal Charges for Boeing Over Crashes

Federal prosecutors are recommending that the Justice Department bring criminal charges against Boeing for violating the 2021 settlement agreement reached with the planemaker following two fatal crashes of its 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019 that killed over 340 people, sources say.

The Department of Justice, which determined in May that the settlement was violated, has until July 7 to decide whether to bring charges against Boeing.

As part of the 2021 settlement, the Justice Department agreed not to prosecute the company for defrauding the FAA as long as Boeing made changes to its compliance practices and regularly submitted reports to federal regulators. Boeing also paid $2.5 billion in penalties as part of the agreement.

Justice Department officials determined in May that Boeing failed to “design, implement, and enforce” an ethics and compliance program to prevent further fraud violations.

The DOJ’s determination was made following the blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max flight shortly after takeoff in January.

Boeing informed the Justice Department last month that it disagreed with the DOJ’s determination.

Currently, Boeing is in discussions with the Justice Department on how to resolve the investigation, and despite the recommendation from some prosecutors, there is no guarantee that DOJ officials will seek to prosecute the company.

Sources said deliberations within the DOJ were ongoing and no final decision has been reached.

While criminal charges against Boeing would create even more significant problems for the embattled planemaker, the sources did not say what charges were being considered.

It is possible that the Justice Department would forgo prosecuting Boeing and instead choose to extend the agreement for another year under new, stricter terms, which could include imposing additional financial penalties or appointing an independent third party to monitor Boeing’s compliance. The Justice Department could also require Boeing to plead guilty and admit wrongdoing, the sources said.