Boeing agreed Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, to pay a mere $243.6 million fine to settle criminal conspiracy charges, plus compensation to victims families and airline customers, ending a roughly two-year investigation conducted by the U.S. Justice Department, but the families who lost loved ones saw little justice in this rushed criminal settlement process that excluded them.
Government officials said Boeing employees concealed information about its 737 Max airplane that was involved in two crashes that claimed 346 lives, federal prosecutors announced Thursday who said Boeing “knowingly and willfully” conspired to defraud the United States by undermining the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to evaluate the safety of the plane.
Boeing admitted that two 737 flight technical pilots “deceived” the FAA about the capabilities of a flight-control system on the planes, a software that was later implicated in the two crashes, the Justice Department said. The deferred prosecution agreement closes the DOJ’s roughly two-year probe and drops all charges after three years if there aren’t additional violations.
Michael Stumo, father of Samya Rose Stumo, 24, who was killed in the second crash of the MAX within five months, said, “Families previously contacted the Department of Justice requesting input into their prosecution under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act but we were rebuffed. Today’s agreement is therefore a surprise to us. It is the Boeing Protection Agreement (BPA), not a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). The Boeing individuals who committed fraudulent acts are protected by Boeing’s money and will not be held accountable. The documents that reveal what actually happened will still be secret. The Department of Justice attorneys therefore participated in the effort to freeze out families, protect individual wrongdoers from harm, and conceal the Boeing documents which would let the public know what really happened. The actual government fine of $243.6 million is a rounding error in Boeing corporate finances, worth a couple of airplanes. This is fake justice agreed to by insiders while excluding victims’ families.”
The $2.51 billion package consists of a $243.6 million criminal penalty, a $500 million fund for crash-victims family members and $1.77 billion for its airline customers. Boeing said it already accounted for a bulk of those costs in prior quarters and expects to take a $743.6 million charge in its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings to cover the rest.
“The news from the Justice Department is an insult to the families and the flying public,” said Robert A. Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices in Chicago and Lead Counsel of the litigation pending in federal district court in Chicago. “We will continue to fight for the real justice that these family members deserve in the civil courts. They want answers. They deserve to know what happened and why it was allowed to happen that comes with real consequences.”
Zipporah Kuria of the UK who lost her father in the Boeing crash in Ethiopia said, “Today’s action won’t bring back our loved ones but at least there is clarity that their deaths weren’t incidental and there is clarity in liability. I am disgusted that my dad and 345 people lost their lives and, instead of taking accountability, Boeing decided to cover it. I hope this is a reminder to the public that every time you get on a Boeing 737-8 Max these are the hands you’re putting your life into. In pursuit of real justice, the individuals responsible at Boeing should not be retiring or resigning with bonuses — they should be held criminally liable for their actions. The loss of life shouldn’t go unaddressed or dealt with a slap on the wrist. Our loved ones paid for their gross negligence with their lives, and we paid with our loss forever. May this serve as a reminder that Boeing’s and the FAA’s current leadership is not fit to be entrusted with human life. Their priority is corporate interest over human life. This decision highlights failure in the justice process, and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of justice. It doesn’t even signify an olive branch. It raises the question of moral compass. If people can pay their way out of accountability, what can’t they get away with.”
For further information, please contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).