737 MAX Nightmare: Boeing on the Brink of Criminal Charges

Wirestock Creators / shutterstock.com
Wirestock Creators / shutterstock.com

By July 7, the Justice Department will finally get off its indecisive backside and decide whether to prosecute Boeing for shamelessly violating the 2021 settlement it had with the U.S. government. The aerospace giant bungled its sweetheart deal with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On May 14, the DOJ suddenly woke up and realized that, surprise, surprise, Boeing hadn’t stuck to its deferred prosecution agreement. The sweetheart agreement had previously allowed Boeing to wiggle out of criminal charges after their 737 MAX jets did their best kamikaze impressions, tragically claiming numerous lives.

Prosecutors from the Justice Department relayed this development to a federal judge after a confidential meeting held with the bereaved families of the 2018 and 2019 crash victims on April 24. They must decide by July 7 whether to pursue criminal charges against Boeing. Until then, they’ll keep everyone on tenterhooks while they figure out how to proceed or, more likely, how to spin this in the least damaging way possible.

Glenn Leon, who is in charge of the Justice Department’s fraud section, pointed out in a letter that Boeing apparently forgot to implement the very measures that were supposed to prevent them from violating federal anti-fraud laws. This, of course, is a blatant breach of their deferred prosecution agreement from 2021. But who’s really surprised at this point?

The Justice Department underscored its authority to prosecute Boeing for any federal criminal infractions, including fraud, a charge the aerospace giant had hoped to evade through its $2.5 billion settlement with the U.S. government.

However, the government has yet to disclose its intentions regarding Boeing’s prosecution despite the company’s substantial role as one of the government’s primary aerospace contractors. “The Government is determining how it will proceed in this matter,” as stated in a court document by the Justice Department.

Let’s not forget the 2018 and 2019 disasters involving the 737 MAX. These crashes were caused by a new flight-control system that Boeing sneakily added to the jet without bothering to inform airlines or their pilots. Investigations revealed Boeing’s pathetic attempt to downplay the system’s importance and their sluggish response to fix it—only after the second crash, which added more deaths to their tally.

The Justice Department eventually took a peek into Boeing’s antics, resulting in the deferred prosecution agreement on January 7, 2021. Under this cozy deal, Boeing wasn’t charged for defrauding the government and misleading the regulators who greenlit the 737 MAX. Instead, they forked over a measly $2.5 billion. This chump change included nearly $1.8 billion to airlines, a $500 million fund for victims, and a $243.6 million fine to the U.S. Government..

The DOJ, Acting Assistant Attorney General David P. Burns, did his duty in 2021 by calling out Boeing’s employees for choosing profit over honesty and covering up vital information from the FAA about the 737 MAX.

Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, also lambasted Boeing for their misleading statements, half-truths, and omissions that effectively hamstrung the government’s efforts to keep the public safe.

The expiration on January 7 coincided with a mid-air incident involving an Alaskan Airlines flight featuring a 737 MAX, prompting the Justice Department’s 2024 investigation into Boeing’s compliance with the 2021 settlement.

In the wake of these incidents, Boeing has been entangled in numerous civil litigations, congressional inquiries, and heightened public scrutiny of its operational integrity. And let’s not overlook the conspiracy theories swirling around the conveniently timed deaths of two Boeing whistleblowers. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

Paul Cassell, representing the families of 737 MAX crash victims, voiced concerns in late April regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the case, apprehensive that Boeing might be receiving preferential treatment. Despite a closed-door meeting on April 24, no substantial updates were provided on the ongoing investigation, leaving Cassell and others questioning the interests being served by potentially dismissing charges against Boeing.