Boeing Pleads Not Guilty To Fraud In Criminal Case Over Deadly 737 Max Crashes
Boeing and the Justice Department had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement to settle the charge two years ago but many of the families of the crash victims objected to the agreement, saying that they were not consulted about what they called a “secret, sweetheart deal.” Under the terms of the agreement, Boeing admitted to defrauding the FAA by concealing safety problems with the 737 Max, but pinned much of the blame on two technical pilots who they say misled regulators while working on the certification of the aircraft. Only one of those pilots was prosecuted and a jury acquitted him at trial last year. Boeing also agreed to pay $2.5 billion, including $1.7 billion in compensation to airlines that had purchased 737 Max planes but could not use them while the plane was grounded for 20 months after the second plane crashed. The company also agreed to pay $500 million in compensation to the families of those killed in the two Max plane crashes, and to pay a $243 million fine. The agreement also required Boeing to make significant changes to its safety policies and procedures, as well as to the corporate culture, which many insiders have said had shifted in recent years from a safety first focus to one that critics say put profits first.
After three years, if the aerospace giant and defense contractor lived up to the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, the criminal charge against Boeing would be dismissed and the company would be immune from further prosecution. But last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor agreed that under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, the relatives’ rights had been violated and they should have been consulted before the DOJ and Boeing reached the agreement. Last week, he ordered Boeing to appear Thursday to be arraigned. On Thursday, the families asked Judge O’Connor to impose certain conditions on Boeing as a condition of release, including appointing an independent monitor to oversee Boeing’s compliance with the terms of the previous deferred prosecution agreement, and that the company’s compliance efforts “be made public to the fullest extent possible.” O’Connor did not rule on whether to impose those conditions yet, as Boeing and the Justice Department opposed the request. But he did impose a standard condition that Boeing commit no new crimes.
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