Boeing Agrees To Plead Guilty Following Accidents That Claimed 346 People

Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States for its role in two fatal 737 Max crashes that left 346 passengers dead, the Justice Department said in a court filing Sunday evening.

It represents yet another black eye for the company after a series of embarrassing safety blunders, but the agreement avoids what could have been more serious consequences.

It will pay up to $487 million in fines — a fraction of the $24.8 billion that families of crash victims wanted the aircraft maker to pay. The families of victims of two fatal crashes of the 737 Max oppose the deal, the department said.

The guilty plea is a severe blow to the reputation of Boeing, a company once known for the quality and safety of its commercial planes. Beyond the fatal crashes of the 737 Max jets, the company has faced a series of questions about the safety and quality of its planes. In January, a door plug on a 737 Max flown by Alaska Airlines blew out early in a flight, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the jet and further damaging Boeing’s reputation.

The agreement stipulates that Boeing will have to operate under the oversight of an independent monitor – a person to be chosen by the government – for a period of three years. But that oversight and the fine did not satisfy the families of victims, according to one of their attorneys.

“This sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing’s conspiracy, 346 people died,” said a statement from Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah who represents many family members of the 2018 Lion Air crash and 2019 Ethiopian Air crash victims.

“This deceptive and generous deal is clearly not in the public interest,” he added. The families are seeking a public trial on the charges.

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