Boeing Agrees to Plead Guilty to Crime in Justice Department Deal

Boeing Agrees to Plead Guilty to Crime in Justice Department Deal

WASHINGTON — Boeing agreed Sunday to plead guilty to a criminal charge of conspiracy to defraud the federal government following two fatal crashes of the 737 Max in 2018 and 2019, according to a late-night court filing.

As part of the settlement with the department, Boeing also agreed to pay a $487.2 million fine — the maximum allowed by law — and invest at least $455 million over the next three years to strengthen its compliance and safety programs.

The company will be placed on probation for three years, supervised by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. As part of the probationary period, the Justice Department will appoint an independent compliance monitor to ensure that safety measures are in place and being followed, submitting annual reports to the government. The company will face additional penalties if any of the conditions are not met. The company’s board of directors will also be required to meet with the families of the crash victims.

The settlement reached Sunday stems from violations of an agreement Boeing reached with the Justice Department in 2021 that it would make significant safety changes after the two fatal crashes.

The department and Boeing filed a joint brief Sunday night, informing the district court that they had reached a tentative agreement. The formal agreement will be filed in the coming week. The court will then schedule a hearing for the company to formally enter a guilty plea. The victims’ families will have a chance to speak at that hearing.

The victims’ families, who were notified of the broad terms of the settlement a week ago, said it did not go far enough. Paul G. Cassell, a lawyer for more than a dozen families, said they had sought an acknowledgement of liability in the deaths of 346 people killed in crashes involving the troubled Boeing 737 Max in Indonesia and Ethiopia in late 2018 and early 2019. The families had hoped for harsher consequences for the company and its executives, including a trial.

The families said they would oppose the deal.

Boeing’s decision to plead guilty does not provide any immunity to the company’s employees or executives. And the deal does not shield it from charges that might be brought in other investigations.

A Boeing spokesperson confirmed that the company had reached an agreement with the Justice Department but declined to comment further.