Justice Department Plans to Ask Boeing to Plead Guilty Over 737 Max Linked to Fatal Crashes

Skift Take

If Boeing is convicted of committing a felony, it could become harder for the plane maker to win contract work with the federal government.

The Justice Department is planning to ask Boeing to plead guilty for deceiving federal regulators about certain aspects of the 737 Max 8, which led to two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 , according to Reuters.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Boeing will have until the end of the week to accept the guilty plea, and the DOJ isn’t willing to negotiate the terms of that settlement. If Boeing refuses to plead guilty, then it will have to go to trial, the report said. 

The guilty plea agreement would have Boeing agree to hire an outside consultant to monitor its production processes to ensure they comply with safety regulations. The plane maker would also have to pay an additional corporate penalty of $243 million, multiple reports said.

The DOJ initially entered a deferred prosecution agreement with Boeing over charges to defraud the federal government in concealing certain information on the Max 8. But DOJ prosecutors said in May that they believed Boeing had violated the terms of that agreement. Through that agreement, Boeing paid $2.5 billion to avoid criminal prosecution.

It’s unclear if the Alaska Airlines blowout on January 5 may have violated the terms of the previous deferred prosecution agreement. 

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A guilty plea would mean that Boeing now risks being accused of committing a felony, which could make it harder for the plane maker to win contract work with the federal government. 

The Alaska blowout led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the Max 9 — a different 737 Max variant from the one involved in the DOJ case —  for nearly a month. The agency also halted the production expansion of the 737 Max line, which has led major airlines to face delivery delays. Southwest Airlines has trimmed its outlook due to certification issues with the Max 7 and United Airlines, a big Boeing customer, has been rethinking its fleet plans.

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