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Justice Department says Boeing breached 2021 agreement over 737 Max


Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are pictured outside a Boeing factory on March 25, 2024 in Renton, Washington. 

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

Boeing violated a 2021 settlement that protected it from criminal charges tied to the fatal 737 Max crashes, opening the company up to potential U.S. prosecution, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing in Texas they are still determining “how it will proceed in this matter” and that Boeing will have 30 days to respond.

The airplane manufacturer broke 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 throughout its operations,” the DOJ said.

Boeing denied those claims.

“We believe that we have honored the terms of that agreement, and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the Department on this issue,” Boeing said.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle a conspiracy charge with the Justice Department. After a roughly two-year probe, the DOJ accused the company of concealing information about its Max plane that had been involved in two crashes that claimed the lives of all 346 people on board.

Boeing had admitted that two of its 737 Max technical pilots “deceived” the Federal Aviation Administration about the capabilities of a flight-control system on the planes that was later implicated in the two crashes, the Justice Department said at the time.

“This is a positive first step, and for the families, a long time coming. But we need to see further action from DOJ to hold Boeing accountable, and plan to use our meeting on May 31 to explain in more detail what we believe would be a satisfactory remedy to Boeing’s ongoing criminal conduct,” Paul Cassell, a lawyer for crash victims’ families said in a statement on Tuesday.

The plane-maker has been under heightened federal scrutiny after a door panel blew out midair from a 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines on Jan. 5. A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said bolts that hold in the door plug, which fills an optional emergency exit, didn’t appear to be in place.

The near-tragedy has created a fresh crisis for Boeing, just as it was trying to stabilize its production and improve its reputation after the 2018 and 2019 crashes.

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