US Justice Department: Boeing Breached Controversial 2021 Deal

By Spyros Georgilidakis | May 15, 2024

Boeing breached a deferred prosecution agreement that it made with the United States Justice Department, relating to the two 737 MAX crashes.

We have previously seen that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contacted the passengers of Alaska Airlines flight 1282, informing them that a criminal investigation was taking place.

The door plug involved in the January 2024 accident. Photo: NTSB

Alaska Airlines later commented that it does not believe that it (the airline) is the subject of the investigation. The FBI is an investigative body of the U.S. Justice Department, which had reason to take a close look at this event, which involved a Boeing 737 MAX-9.

In 2021, the U.S. Justice Department and Boeing agreed on a $2.5 billion settlement, which attracted a lot of criticism. It involved the role of the company’s actions concerning the two 737 MAX-8 crashes in 2018 and 2019.

US Justice Department: Boeing Breached Controversial 2021 Deal
Photo: @JacdecNew via X (formerly Twitter)

An Unpopular Decision?

Much of the criticism centered on the size of the settlement. The $2.5 billion included $500 million to the 346 crash victims’ families and $1.77 billion as compensation for the airlines. Some argued that Boeing would have had to compensate its customer airlines by this amount (and more) even without the DoJ deal.

So, only the rest ($243.6 million out of the $2.5 billion) in the settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and Boeing amounted to the monetary penalty for the crashes. But crucially, there were some key conditions in this agreement.

Image: Boeing

Among these, Boeing had 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 agreement was filed on the 7th of January 2021, and expired three years later, on the 7th of January 2024.

The Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 in-flight blowout happened on the 5th of January, just short of the deadline. Arguably, even if it had happened a few days later, the U.S. Justice Department could still hold Boeing accountable, since the plane’s assembly took place months earlier, well within the three years.

US Justice Department: Boeing Breached Controversial 2021 Deal
Opened plug (left) and closed later (right) during interior work. Photos: Boeing via NTSB

Justice Department and Boeing – A New Prosecution Coming?

As a result of this judgment, the Justice Department could decide to file charges against Boeing, concerning the MAX-8 crashes. That is separate from any charges relating to any newer events – like January’s MAX-9 blowout.

However, the Justice Department’s next moves aren’t yet clear. There is a six-month deadline from the expiration of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement until the Justice Department can notify the judge in charge of any new prosecution of Boeing.

Boeing’s current HQ in Arlington, Virginia, between the Pentagon and Reagan National Airport. Photo: Duane Lempke

The DoJ’s deadline for this is July 7th. But if necessary, the department could ask for an extension, as it considers more recent events. Meanwhile, the DoJ gave Boeing until the 13th of June to comment on its decision.

Boeing has publicly stated that it believes it abided by the 2021 Deferred Prosecution Agreement. The Justice Department has already notified relatives of the 737 MAX crash victims about its latest actions.


Leave the first comment