US warns Boeing could be charged

Justice Department says prosecutio­n on the table

- Zach Wichter and Bart Jansen

Boeing has violated a 2021 agreement that shielded it from criminal prosecutio­n after two 737 Max disasters killed 346 people overseas, the Justice Department has told a federal judge in a court filing.

According to the Justice Department’s filing Tuesday, Boeing failed 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 government has not yet decided whether it will pursue prosecutio­n of Boeing, but lawyers representi­ng families of crash victims said they hope to see further action.

“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, attorney for the families and a professor of law at the University of Utah College of Law, said in a statement.

Boeing failed to “design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws.”

Justice Department filing

Boeing acknowledg­ed receiving notice of the decision and said it planned to respond.

“We can confirm that we received a communicat­ion today from the Justice Department, stating that the Department has made a determinat­ion that we have not met our obligation­s under our 2021 deferred prosecutio­n agreement, and requesting the company’s response,” Boeing told USA TODAY in a statement.

“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. As we do so, we will engage with the Depart

ment with the utmost transparen­cy, as we have throughout the entire term of the agreement, including in response to their questions following the Alaska Airlines 1282 accident.”

Government officials plan to meet May 31 with victims of the crash and directed Boeing to reply to the filing by June 13. The department will inform the court by July 7 how it plans to proceed, which could lead to criminal charges against the company.

The jetliner manufactur­er has been under increased scrutiny by regulators and lawmakers this year after the latest grounding of its 737 Max jets. In January, an Alaska Airlines 737 Max lost a door plug during a flight. Though the incident caused no serious injuries or deaths, the Federal Aviation Administra­tion quickly grounded the fleet of 737 Max jets that had the same kind of door plug, and federal regulators began new inquiries into Boeing’s production practices.

Passengers on the Alaska Airlines flight later received letters from the FBI informing them they may be victims of a crime.

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