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Justice Department accuses Boeing of violating deal to resolve criminal charges over 737MAX crash

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused embattled aircraft manufacturer Boeing of violating a 2021 agreement to resolve a criminal charge stemming from the 737MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The deal, known as a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), was reached between the DOJ’s fraud division and Boeing in January 2021 and required the manufacturer to pay a total criminal monetary amount of more than $2.5 billion.

Under the DPA, Boeing was required to notify the Department of Justice of any allegation or report any evidence of a violation of fraud laws committed by its employees or agents. Boeing also needed to strengthen its compliance programs to avoid allegations of fraud in the future.

The compliance program was intended to be “reasonably designed, implemented and enforced” to prevent fraud against government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its customers.

On Tuesday, however, the DOJ accused Boeing of failing to “design, implement and enforce” a working compliance and ethics program that could effectively prevent and detect violations of U.S. fraud laws.

As a result of the finding, the Justice Department can now pursue criminal charges in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that killed 346 people.

A criminal prosecution would focus on “the fraudulent and deceptive conduct” of Boeing employees who helped convince regulators and airline customers that there was no major difference between the best-selling 737NG and 737MAX.

In fact, there was a major difference in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) added to the 737MAX that had a significant impact on the flight control system.

In March, it was revealed that the DOJ had opened a criminal investigation into Boeing’s conduct following the mid-cabin exit blowout of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737MAX in January.

Since that incident, Boeing has been the subject of a number of whistleblower allegations about safety and compliance.

In response to Tuesday’s lawsuit, Boeing noted: “We believe we have complied with the terms of that agreement and look forward to the opportunity to respond to this matter with the Department.”

“As we do this, we will work with the Department with the utmost transparency, as we have throughout the term of the agreement, including in response to their questions following the Alaska Airlines 1282 accident.”

The DOJ has not yet made a final decision on whether it will open criminal charges and has given Boeing until June to respond to the allegation. A final decision is not expected until July.

Observers say the DOJ may stop short of opening a full criminal prosecution and instead try to impose a slew of new fines and regulatory requirements on Boeing.

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Mateusz Maszczynski


Mateusz Maszczynski has honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the Middle East’s leading airline, flying for a well-known European airline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experiences and human-centric storytelling. Always keeping his ear close to the ground, Matt’s insights, analysis and industry reporting are often used by some of the biggest names in journalism.