Boeing pleads guilty to criminal conspiracy amid renewed legal troubles over 737 MAX crash


(MENAFN) Boeing Co. has agreed to plead guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, following the Justice Department's findings that the company failed to adhere to a prior agreement related to the fatal crashes of its 737 Max aircraft. This development arises from a tentative agreement with U.S. federal prosecutors, under which Boeing could face a criminal fine reaching up to USD487.2 million, the maximum penalty permissible by law. However, the final amount will be determined by a judge, as noted by the Justice Department.

As part of the agreement, Boeing will appoint a corporate monitor and is required to invest at least USD455 million into its compliance and safety programs over the next three years. Additionally, the company will be subject to three years of judicial oversight. This guilty plea marks a significant blemish on Boeing's century-long history, following the two tragic crashes of its 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in the loss of 346 lives.

The agreement could potentially shield Boeing from the distractions and further complications of a criminal trial, a welcome relief as the company navigates financial instability and leadership uncertainties. Despite this, Boeing expressed its disagreement with the prosecutors' decision, communicated in June, that it had violated the previous agreement.

The Justice Department concluded in May that Boeing had breached a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement related to the plane crashes, which was established during the final days of the Trump administration. Under that 2021 agreement, Boeing paid a USD243.6 million criminal fine and admitted to deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about a flight-control system implicated in the fatal crashes. Boeing also committed to enhancing its internal safety procedures, in exchange for the government dropping a criminal charge after three years.

However, this agreement faced substantial criticism from the families of the crash victims, who were not consulted before its announcement. Compounding the situation, just days before the agreement was set to expire, a fuselage panel on a Boeing 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines exploded in early January. Subsequently, the department concluded that Boeing had not met the requirement under the 2021 agreement to implement an effective compliance program designed to prevent and detect violations of U.S. fraud laws. 

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