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US said to seek Boeing guilty plea to avoid trial in 737 Max crashes

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The US justice department plans to allow Boeing to avoid a criminal trial if it agrees to plead guilty to a fraud charge stemming from two fatal crashes of its 737 Max more than five years ago, according to two lawyers for families of the crash victims.
Federal officials shared details of the offer on a call with the families Sunday before bringing the deal to Boeing, according to the lawyers, Paul G Cassell and Mark Lindquist.
The terms include a nearly $244 million fine, a new investment in safety improvements, three years of scrutiny from an external monitor, and a meeting between Boeing’s board and the victims’ families, said Cassell, a University of Utah law professor. The justice department did not respond to a request for comment, while Boeing declined to comment.
Cassell, who represents more than a dozen of the families, said that he and the families found the deal to be “outrageous”. He described the offer as a “sweetheart plea deal” because it would not force Boeing to admit fault in the deaths of the 346 people who died in the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in late 2018 and early 2019.
The terms reportedly being offered to Boeing would update a 2021 settlement that resolved the criminal charge accusing the aerospace giant of a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration. The new agreement would require Boeing to plead guilty to that charge, according to the lawyers. The 2021 criminal charge centered on two employees who were accused of withholding information from the FAA about changes made to software known as MCAS, which was later implicated in the crashes.
If Boeing agrees to plead guilty to the charge, the company would also admit to a set of facts laid out in that 2021 agreement, which Cassell criticised as a “whitewashed” narrative in which Boeing escapes blame for the deaths.
Under the earlier deal, the company agreed to pay $500 million to the victims’ families. It also agreed to pay more than $1.7 billion to its customers because they could not take deliveries of the Max during a 20-month global ban on the jet. The 2021 settlement is known as a deferred prosecution agreement, a type of deal often used in criminal cases against corporations, allowing companies to avoid charges if they do not engage in wrongdoing for a certain period.
The new plea deal comes just days before a July 7 deadline for the justice department to file criminal charges in the case. Boeing will have until the end of the week to decide whether to accept the deal, according to Cassell.





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