NewsNational

Actions

Justice Department looking to offer Boeing a plea deal

An attorney representing crash victims' families tells Scripps News the Department of Justice is offering the manufacturing giant a plea deal on federal fraud charges.
U.S. investigators examine parts recovered from the crash of a Lion Air jet at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia
Posted at 7:46 PM, Jul 01, 2024

As Boeing remains under fire, an attorney representing crash victims' families tells Scripps News the Department of Justice is offering the manufacturing giant a plea deal on federal fraud charges.

The DOJ says safety failures like the door panel blowing off an Alaska Airlines flight violate a 2021 protection settlement agreement between Boeing and the Department of Justice.

The agreement stemmed from two fatal crashes of 737 Max jets. Some family members of the crashes' victims say criminal charges are long overdue.

Paul Cassell, an attorney representing Boeing crash victims' families, said, "Boeing has committed the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history, killing 346 people. And then on top of that, as if that were not enough already, Boeing has breached its obligations to improve its safety culture."

Cassell penned a letter to the DOJ urging it to act.

"[Boeing has] been given three years to clean up its act, so to speak, and it's failed to do that. So it is time for criminal prosecution to move forward, aggressively," Cassell said.

Criminal corporate prosecution is a massive task that often ends in a settlement or a plea deal.

BP faced criminal charges for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and ultimately paid $4 billion in penalties.

More recently, Norfolk Southern agreed to a $310 million settlement with the Justice Department over its train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Marc Steinberg, a former attorney for the SEC, believes this will go a similar way.

Steinberg said, "So of course they're going to settle. They can kick and scream, but they're going to have to settle."

One thing Steinberg says is often missing from these prosecutions is individual accountability.

"Why prosecute the company when, of course, the decisions are made by individuals? And this is something the Justice Department, as well as the SEC, has done for decades," Steinberg said.

Notably, executives involved in major scandals like the BP oil spill, the 2008 financial crisis and the opioid epidemic have yet to face prison time.

If the DOJ opts to not bring charges, many experts, including Steinberg, believe it will appoint an independent monitor to oversee reform at the company.