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DOJ says it still hasn't decided whether to prosecute Boeing

Allyson Versprille, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department told attorneys for families of victims of two fatal 737 Max crashes that it still hasn’t decided whether to pursue criminal charges against Boeing Co., after determining last month the plane maker had breached a 2021 agreement with the government.

“The department has not made a decision on how to proceed or whether to pursue prosecution of Boeing,” Justice Department Fraud Section Chief Glenn Leon said in an email sent to the attorneys Friday. “We will continue to update you, your clients, and the other victims on any major case decisions,” he said in the email, which was seen by Bloomberg News.

Boeing didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.

The federal agency determined last month that Boeing had breached the 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement that was put in place after the 737 Max crashes, which killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019. The plane maker has denied the department’s findings, and the Justice Department now has until July 7 to decide what punishment, if any, the company should face. Possibilities include criminal charges or drawing up a new deal with additional conditions, including an independent corporate monitor.

The New York Times, citing people familiar with the situation, reported earlier on Friday that the Justice Department was expected to enter into a new agreement with the company that would include the appointment of a monitor. The newspaper later amended the report to say that prosecutors have not made a final call, and won’t rule out bringing charges against Boeing or negotiating a possible plea deal.

 

The families of the crash victims asked the Justice Department earlier in the week to seek a nearly $25 billion fine against Boeing and to pursue criminal prosecution. An attorney for the families suggested that $14 billion to $22 billion of that total could be suspended if Boeing devotes those funds to an independent monitor and improvements to its safety programs.

Boeing has been under a microscope since a near-catastrophe in January, with the midair blowout of a so-called door plug on a jet operated by Alaska Airlines. The event sparked multiple government probes, including a federal criminal investigation, and prompted the Justice Department to consider throwing out its 2021 deal, which was set to expire a few days after the accident.

(Chris Strohm contributed to this report.)


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