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Faith Nyasuguta 

U.S. prosecutors are currently engaging with Boeing and the families of crash victims as the July 7 deadline approaches for the Justice Department to decide on potential criminal charges against the plane maker. This information comes from sources familiar with the situation and documents reviewed by Reuters.

On Thursday, Justice Department officials met with Boeing’s legal team to discuss findings that the company violated a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). This agreement had previously shielded Boeing from criminal prosecution over the two fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 in Indonesia and 2019 in Ethiopia, which together claimed 346 lives.

In addition, federal prosecutors were set to meet with the families of the crash victims to provide updates on the investigation. According to an email from the Department of Justice (DOJ) reviewed by Reuters, U.S. officials are working under a “tight timeline.”

Boeing’s lawyers, representing the firm from Kirkland & Ellis, presented their case on Thursday to officials from the Deputy Attorney General’s office, arguing that prosecution is unwarranted and that the 2021 deal should not be revoked. Such defenses are typical when companies under investigation by the DOJ negotiate to resolve the matter.


The Justice Department seeks input from the families of the victims as they decide how to proceed, according to the email. Prosecutors from the DOJ’s criminal fraud division and the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas were to attend Sunday’s meeting. Both the DOJ and Boeing declined to comment on the matter.

Boeing has maintained that it has “honored the terms” of the settlement and has formally informed prosecutors of its disagreement with the finding that it breached the agreement.

Sources familiar with the situation previously told Reuters that U.S. prosecutors recommended bringing criminal charges against Boeing after determining the company violated the 2021 settlement. Discussions are ongoing between the two parties regarding a potential resolution to the Justice Department’s investigation, and there is no certainty that officials will proceed with charges.

These deliberations follow an incident on January 5, during which a panel blew out on a Boeing plane just two days before the company’s DPA expired. This incident highlighted continuing safety and quality issues at Boeing.

Boeing had been on track to avoid prosecution for a criminal charge of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration related to the 2018-2019 crashes. Prosecutors had agreed to drop the charge, provided Boeing overhauled its compliance practices and submitted regular reports over a three-year period. As part of the agreement, Boeing also committed to paying $2.5 billion to settle the investigation.

Jet seen at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash /AFP/

In May, officials concluded that Boeing had breached the agreement, making the company vulnerable to prosecution. The DOJ stated in a court filing in Texas that Boeing failed to “design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of U.S. fraud laws throughout its operations.”


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Faith Nyasuguta

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