Sunday, July 21, 2024

Boeing agrees to plead guilty to criminal fraud. Guess who’s going to jail?

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Boeing will plead guilty to criminal fraud charges dating back to the years before the crash of two 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday, first reported by the Associated Press. If a judge accepts the plea deal, the company will pay an additional $243.6 million in fines and no one from Boeing will go to jail. And the victims’ families are not happy about the situation.

The charges stem from a 2018 crash of a Boeing 737 Max that killed 189 people in Indonesia and a 2019 crash that killed 157 people in Ethiopia. Subsequent investigations into Boeing revealed deep concerns within the company about the safety of its planes, with one employee writing of the Max in 2017: “This plane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys.”

Specifically, Boeing will plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government by misleading the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the safety of its planes. The new agreement imposes a fine identical to the one it paid in a 2021 settlement with the Justice Department that allowed it to avoid criminal prosecution in the first place. But the Justice Department alleges that Boeing violated the agreement and had until this weekend to plead guilty under conditions set by the department or face trial.

“Miscarceration of justice is a tremendous understatement to describe this,” Zipporah Kuria, who lost her father Joseph in the Ethiopian Airlines crash in 2019, told CNN in a statement. “It is an unspeakable abomination. I hope that, God forbid, if this happens again, the Department of Justice is reminded that it had the opportunity to do something meaningful and instead chose not to.”

Boeing confirmed to Gizmodo on Monday that the company had reached an agreement in principle with the Justice Department, “subject to memorialization and approval of specific terms.” But Boeing’s troubles are far from over. As AP notes, the plea agreement only covers conduct before the two crashes and does not grant immunity for any other recent issues, such as the January incident when a door stopper fell off a 737 Max flight operated by Alaska Airlines.

This all comes as the FAA has ordered an inspection of oxygen masks on 2,600 Boeing planes, according to a new report from Reuters. The concern is that the masks on the 737 MAX and NG are slipping out of position, preventing them from functioning properly.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to questions on Monday. Gizmodo will update this post if we receive a response.


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