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Boeing could face criminal prosecution following the recent crashes 

U.S. prosecutors have advised the Department of Justice (DoJ) to file criminal charges against Boeing. This follows the DoJ’s allegation that Boeing breached a settlement agreement related to two fatal crashes of its 737 Max aircraft, which resulted in 346 deaths. 

The two crashes, involving Boeing’s 737 Max, occurred within six months of each other: Lion Air in Indonesia in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March 2019. 

This recommendation, reported by CBS, is not a final decision, and whether or not there will be any criminal charges remains unclear. The DoJ has until July 7 to decide whether to proceed with prosecution. 

Victims’ families recently urged prosecutors to impose a $25 billion fine on Boeing and pursue criminal charges. In an ongoing investigation, Boeing whistleblowers testified before the Senate in April, highlighting serious production issues with the 737 Max, the 787 Dreamliner, and the 777 models. In January, a new 737 Max operated by Alaska Airlines lost a door panel mid-flight, leaving a large hole in the aircraft.

Ed Pierson, executive director of the Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former Boeing senior manager, stressed the significance of the upcoming decision in a recent BBC interview. He pointed out ongoing problems with Boeing aircraft, including the 737 Max and 787, which he attributed to company leadership.

In a 2021 deal, Boeing agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with the DoJ, which in turn agreed to drop a criminal charge after three years if Boeing met certain conditions in the deferred prosecution agreement. 

However, the DoJ recently accused Boeing of violating this deal by failing to implement an effective compliance and ethics program to prevent fraud.

Boeing’s CEO David Calhoun testified that the company has learned from its past mistakes and that the whistleblower process is effective, though lawmakers criticised him for insufficient action against a culture of retaliation. Calhoun, who will step down as CEO at the end of 2024 with a $33 million pay package, will remain on Boeing’s board. 

He succeeded Dennis Muilenburg, who was dismissed following the crashes. Pierson said the leadership changes at Boeing as superficial, noting that Calhoun had been with the company for a decade before becoming CEO in 2019.

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