Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Lawyer Claims US Government Offering Boeing a Lenient Plea Deal Over 737 Max Crashes

Paul Cassell, a lawyer representing victims of the fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes, has informed the BBC that the US government is allegedly preparing to offer Boeing a “sweetheart plea deal.” According to Cassell, who claims to have received this information “directly from the Justice Department,” the proposed deal includes a small fine, three years of probation, and independent safety audits for the aerospace giant.

Lack of Immediate Responses

Boeing has not yet responded to the BBC’s request for comment, while the Justice Department (DoJ) has also declined to provide a statement on the matter. This development coincides with Boeing’s announcement of a deal to acquire aerospace supplier Spirit AeroSystems, which the company says will enhance quality and safety.

Concerns Over Safety Standards

Spirit AeroSystems recently came under scrutiny after a fuselage it manufactured experienced a mid-flight blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 jet in January, raising concerns about Boeing’s safety standards.

Opposition from Victims’ Families

Last month, US prosecutors advised the DoJ to file criminal charges against Boeing, following allegations that the company violated a 2021 settlement related to the crashes that claimed 346 lives. Cassell argues that the proposed plea deal fails to deliver adequate justice for the victims, asserting that “the memory of 346 innocents killed by Boeing demands more justice than this” and predicting strong objections from the victims’ families.

Background of the Crashes

The two crashes, which occurred within six months of each other, involved Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft. The first crash, involving Indonesia’s Lion Air, occurred in October 2018, followed by an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March 2019. Both incidents were attributed to faulty flight control systems.

Calls for Prosecutions and Hefty Fines

Cassell’s letter to the DoJ last month revealed that the victims’ families have been advocating for the prosecution of Boeing’s top executives at the time of the crashes and a substantial fine of $24.8 billion for what they deem “the deadliest corporate crime in US history.”

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

The Justice Department has until July 7 to decide whether to revive a criminal fraud charge brought against Boeing in 2021. This charge has been inactive since Boeing acknowledged in a settlement that it had misled air-safety regulators about certain aspects of the 737 Max. As part of the 2021 deal, Boeing agreed to pay a $2.5 billion settlement, and prosecutors agreed to drop the criminal charge after three years if the company complied with specified conditions in the deferred prosecution agreement.

Allegations of Breach

In May, the DoJ accused Boeing of breaching the 2021 agreement, claiming that the company failed to “design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the US fraud laws throughout its operations.”

Recent Incidents and Acquisitions

Boeing and its former subsidiary Spirit AeroSystems were once again in the spotlight earlier this year when a door panel fell off a new 737 Max plane during an Alaska Airlines flight. Investigators found that the door had originally been fitted by Spirit. Boeing’s recent deal to acquire Spirit AeroSystems is valued at $8.3 billion, including debt.

In a related development, Boeing’s European competitor Airbus announced plans to take control of four Spirit factories in the United States, Northern Ireland, France, and Morocco, marking a significant shift in the aerospace industry’s landscape.

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