Boeing breached 2021 deferred prosecution agreement, DOJ says

ByLeah Sarnoff ABCNews logo
Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Boeing breached 2021 deferred prosecution agreement: DOJ
The DOJ told a federal court that it determined Boeing breached a non-prosecution agreement allowing it to escape prosecution over 2 fatal crashes.

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Justice has notified a federal court in Texas that it has determined Boeing breached a non-prosecution agreement that allowed the company to escape criminal prosecution over two fatal crashes of 737 Max airplanes in 2018 and 2019, according to a newly filed letter.

Federal prosecutors entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Boeing in January 2021, allowing the aircraft manufacturer to avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for following new safety obligations.

The DOJ stated in the letter that based on the breaches of the agreement, identified by the government, that Boeing is now subject to prosecution, though the department is "still determining how it will proceed in this matter."

In the letter, federal prosecutors said the aerospace giant 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 DOJ has given Boeing until June 13 to respond to their determination.

The fatal Boeing crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 killed 346 people in total.

The first crash on Oct. 29, 2018, in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed all 189 passengers and crew. The second crash, on March 10, 2019, happened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when a Boeing aircraft crashed minutes after takeoff and killed 157 people onboard.

Both crashes preceded the Alaska Airlines incident earlier this year, when a door plug fell out of the fuselage of a Boeing 737 Max 9, a newer model, after departure.

Responding to the letter, Boeing released a statement to ABC News, saying, "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."

Boeing continued, stating, "We will engage with the Department 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."

In April, family members of victims of the 2019 crash in Ethiopia met with prosecutors in Washington D.C. to urge the DOJ to prosecute Boeing.

Paul G. Cassell, the lawyer representing families of the Boeing crash victims, called the DOJ's announcement a "promising first step," in a statement to ABC News.

"This is a positive first step, and for the families, a long time coming," Cassell said. "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."

In the letter, the DOJ said it will be meeting with the Boeing crash victim families on May 31.

The victims' families allegedly had no advance notice federal prosecutors were going to file the letter Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the situation.

ABC News' James Hill, Sam Sweeney and Jack Date contributed to this report.