Families of Boeing Crash Victims Push for Maximum $24 Billion Penalty

A group of families who were affected by deadly Boeing crashes in 2018 and 2019 are now urging the US Justice Department to fine the company to the fullest extent.

Pursuit of Justice

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In 2018 and 2019 two Boeing 737 Max aircraft crashed and killed a staggering 346 passengers and crew members. Now, the families of the victims are asking the Department of Justice to fine the company $24 billion.

Seeking Prosecution

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The families are seeking criminal prosecution as the DOJ considers whether or not to take the world’s largest aerospace company and aircraft manufacturer to court. 

32-page Letter to the DOJ

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In a 32-page letter to the DOJ on Wednesday, sent by Paul Cassell on behalf of the families, they accused Boeing of committing the “deadliest corporate crime in US history” by neglecting quality controls and safety measures.

$24 Billion Fine

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They believe a $24 billion fine, which is the maximum that can be charged in a criminal case of this nature, would be  “legally justified and clearly appropriate.”

Two Fatal Flights

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In October 2018, a Boeing 738 Max employed by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea. Only a few months later in 2019, the same thing happened to an Ethiopian Airlines flight. 

Avoiding Criminal Prosecution

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Back in 2021 Boeing narrowly avoided criminal prosecution for the crashes. They reached an agreement with the DOJ that required Boeing to pay $2.5 billion in penalties and establish a heavily monitored series of safety checks and compliance protocols.

A Violation of Terms

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However after a slew of safety concerns this year, including a door plug that flew off the side of a Boeing 737 Max in the middle of an Alaska Airlines flight, the DOJ has accused the company of violating the 2021 agreement.

Failure to Fulfill the Agreement

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“For failing to fulfill completely the terms of and obligations under the [deferred prosecution agreement], Boeing is subject to prosecution by the United States for any federal criminal violation of which the United States has knowledge,” the DOJ said in a letter to US District Judge Reed O’Connor who spearheaded the original agreement.

Now Open to Criminal Prosecution

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Violation of the agreement has effectively left Boeing open to criminal prosecution based on those two major crashes. Cassel is representing 15 affected families who have finally seen an opening to do what they could not do 3 or 4 years ago.

Asking for a Trial

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The letter has asked for a brief jury trial resulting in “criminal prosecutions of the responsible corporate officials,” specifically calling for accountability from Dennis Muilenburg, who was CEO of Boeing at the time.

“Time is of the Essence”

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“Because time is of the essence to avoid any statute of limitations from running (out), the Department should begin these prosecutions promptly,” Cassel urged.

Ends on July 7

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Federal prosecutors have until July 7 to decide if they want to pursue criminal charges against the company or if they want to enter into negotiations for a plea deal.

No Response to Families

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While Boeing has not responded to the letter, it has responded to the DOJ’s ruling that it violated the 2021 agreement.

Boeing’s Response to DOJ

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“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,” it said in a company statement.

“We Will Engage With the Utmost Transparency”

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“As we do so, we will engage with the Department with the utmost transparency, as we have throughout the entire term of the agreement,” the statement continued.

One Day After Hearing

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The letter comes just a day after current CEO Dave Calhoun testified before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Tuesday.

CEO Stands Down

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Calhoun, who will stand down from his CEO position at the end of the year, was grilled over Boeing’s safety culture, potential retaliation toward company whistleblowers, and his own position as the head of the company.

Defending Against Questions

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He defended himself against accusations of “strip-mining” the company for personal gains and described himself as being “proud” of the actions Boeing had taken over the years that he led the company.

Apology to the Families

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He also apologized directly to the families of the Boeing crash victims, some of whom made appearances outside of the hearing. 

“Prosecution Should be Pursued”

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Senator Richard Blumenthal, the sub-committee chair, was unambiguous about his position on the company’s safety record. “There is near overwhelming evidence in my view as a former prosecutor that prosecution should be pursued,” he concluded at the hearing.

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