Boeing-DOJ 'sweetheart deal' decried by victim's wife

Madlin Mekelburg, Greg Farrell, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

Naoise Connolly Ryan told a Texas judge she’s refused any of the $500 million Boeing Co. was required to set aside to compensate families of 737 Max crash victims under a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government.

“The secret sweetheart deal is not justice,” Ryan, who’s husband Mick was killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash in 2019, said Thursday at a federal court arraignment for the company. “I’ve refused to accept the DPA blood money for this reason. I want justice for Mick and the 346 people killed by Boeing.”

Ryan was among a handful of relatives making tearful appeals for the judge in Fort Worth, Texas, to hold the aircraft maker criminally liable. Earlier in the hearing, Boeing pleaded not guilty to deceiving U.S. regulators about changes made to its 737 Max flight control system that led to two horrific crashes.

It was the first time the company has been forced to publicly answer to a criminal charge connected to the disasters in 2018 and 2019. Two years ago, Boeing reached a controversial deal with the government, which agreed not to bring a conspiracy charge if the company met certain conditions.

Mike Delaney, Boeing’s chief safety officer, entered the plea Thursday on behalf of the company, telling U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that Boeing stands by its admissions of fault expressed in its agreement with the Justice Department, even while it’s contesting the pending felony charge.

Violation risk


The 2021 agreement resolved a probe of Boeing’s role in crashes that killed 346 people and required the company to admit to conduct that would support a charge of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. The government also hit Boeing with a criminal fine of $243.6 million and placed it under Justice Department supervision for a period of three years.

The not-guilty plea could put the company at risk of violating the DOJ agreement, which forbade it from denying its role in hiding issues with the 737 Max flight control system from the Federal Aviation Administration. The system was faulted in the crashes of a Lion Air plane in October 2018 and an Ethiopian Air flight less than five months later.

Paul Cassell, an attorney representing the families challenging the deal, said he planned to file a motion with the judge arguing that Boeing had violated the terms of its agreement.

The arraignment was a hard-fought victory for the families, who’ve spent the past year fighting to unwind the deferred prosecution agreement and have their voices heard. Lawyers for the families argue that they were blindsided by the 2021 deal and weren’t consulted on its terms.


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