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Boeing agrees to plead guilty and pay a nearly quarter-billion dollar fine

The U.S. Justice Department says Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal fraud charge stemming from the crashes of two 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019. Boeing assembles its 737s at its factory in Renton, Wash.
Jennifer Buchanan
/
Pool photo by Seattle Times via Getty Images
The U.S. Justice Department says Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal fraud charge stemming from the crashes of two 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019. Boeing assembles its 737s at its factory in Renton, Wash.

The U.S. Justice Department says Boeing has accepted a deal to plead guilty to a criminal fraud charge stemming from the crashes of two 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

In a late Sunday night court filing, the DOJ said “the government and the Boeing Company have reached an agreement in principle on the terms of a proposed plea agreement.”

As part of the deal, Boeing agrees to pay a $243.6 million fine – adding to a previous $243 million fine the company already has paid. The plane maker will agree to invest “at least $455 million in its compliance and safety programs.” The company will also be put on probation and subject to an independent compliance monitor for three years.

This deal follows an earlier agreement between the DOJ and Boeing in 2021, when the company promised to make safety changes after the two overseas Max crashes. But prosecutors say Boeing did not hold up its end of the deal. In May, the federal government said Boeing “breached its obligations” under the agreement “by failing to design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws.”

That letter came just a few months after a door-plug panel blew off a 737 Max jet in midair in January. The incident involved Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 sparked renewed scrutiny of Boeing’s operations by federal regulators, as well as the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors had met several times with family members of the victims who have pushed for stiffer fines and more penalties for the Boeing. In the DOJ court filing, the government conceded that some families “expressed their opposition to any plea agreement” and to terms of the plea offer.

In a separate filing Sunday, attorneys for the families say they plan to ask a judge to reject this deal because it “unfairly makes concessions to Boeing that other criminal defendants would never receive and fails to hold Boeing accountable for the deaths of 346 persons.”

A court hearing about the deal could come later this month in a Texas federal court.

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Russell Lewis
As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
Joel Rose
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.