Families who lost loved ones in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jet in 2019 killing all 157 on board had harsh words for the corporate giant, saying the U.S. government didn’t go far enough in the indictment of Mark Forkner on Oct. 14, 2021. The former chief pilot of the new aircraft was indicted yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice on six counts for his actions, including lying during the certification process of the new aircraft. He is scheduled to appear in court in Texas on Friday, October 15, 2021.
“Forkner is just a fall guy. He and Boeing are responsible for the deaths of everyone who died in the Max crashes,” said Nadia Milleron, mother of Samya Rose Stumo, who was killed in the second fatal crash in March of 2019. “The system within Boeing rewarded short term financial gain over safety, and Mark Forkner was operating within that system. Prosecutors can and should find quite a few other people who were also responsible for causing the crashes. Every single family who lost someone in the Max crash feels the same way: the executives and board of directors of Boeing need to go to jail.”
The crash of Ethiopian Flight 302 occurred after takeoff in March, 2019, killing all 157 on board. Five months earlier, in October 2018, the first Boeing 727 MAX jet crashed in the Java Sea after takeoff from Indonesia, killing all 189 aboard.
“The Deferred Prosecution Agreement was really a DOJ Boeing ‘Don’t Prosecute Agreement.’ Nobody really believes that Forkner was the only bad actor in this complex pressure for profits, and the scheme to defraud the FAA,” said Michael Stumo, father of Samya Rose Stumo. “It shows that Boeing CEO David Calhoun and the former board members will throw anyone under the bus to protect the C-Suite.”
The DOJ brought a criminal case against Boeing for killing 346 people in the two crashes but settled the matter earlier this year in what is referred to as a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Columbia Law Professor John Coffee at the time called — “one of the worst deferred prosecution agreements I have seen.” Boeing did not have to plead guilty to any of the allegations and no Boeing executive was charged. Boeing’s lead corporate criminal defense law firm is Kirkland & Ellis. Erin Nealy Cox, the lead prosecutor in the Boeing case, left the Justice Department earlier this year and soon thereafter joined Kirkland & Ellis as a partner in its Dallas office.
Paul Njoroge of Toronto, Canada, who lost his entire family in the ET302 crash, said, “The actions of Mark Forkner and Boeing with respect to the 737 MAX certification, production and release to the market, resulted in the death of 346 people: among them my wife, her mum and our three children. By corporates’ customs and practice, Mark Forkner did not act alone. Boeing principals must have been behind the rush to produce the 737 MAX, push it into the market, project higher revenues and earnings, excite Wall Street and in so doing, pump up the Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock. When Lion Air Flight JT610 crashed on October 29, 2018, Mark Forkner and Boeing’s principals committed 189 murders in the third degree. But after failing to ground the 737 MAX after that crash, knowingly shifting the public focus from the company by blaming the so called ‘foreign’ pilots for that crash, they certainly committed 157 murders in the second degree, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on March 10, 2019.
“The federal grand jury should follow a thorough fact-finding process, indict others, especially the top-level management at Boeing, and then find them criminally liable over the death of my wife, our three children, my mum-in-law and 341 others. We have had congressional and senatorial hearings, where Boeing’s ex-CEO, Dennis Muilenberg and the Chief Engineer John Hamilton refused to answer basic questions. I hope that the indictment of Mark Forkner will bring to light the extent of negligence, concealment of information, and hubris within Boeing that led to the two crashes. The public deserves to know. There will never be justice for me for the death of my family, but there will be justice for the public if Mark Forkner and others at Boeing faced maximum prison terms,” Njoroge said.
Chris Moore also of Toronto lost his daughter Danielle. He said, “This was definitely a case of putting profits before safety. Forkner is the fall guy for Boeing’s dirty deeds. Those up the chain will not pay for the errors and negligence but will in the end gain from it. The DOJ must earnestly investigate the entire gang of individuals who had a hand or should have had a better understanding of this failed product. Our loved ones paid with their lives on March 10, 2019, and we paid with our heart and soul for Boeing’s disregard for human life. Hypercapitalism needs to be tempered with punishment for misdeeds especially when it affects the health and safety of the public.”
Zipporah Kuria of the UK lost her father in the crash of ET302. She said, “Twenty years may seem like a long time, but even a thousand life sentences would never be enough. Nothing will bring our loved ones back. Mistakes were made and we are the ones dealing with the ultimate consequences. If one has been charged, everyone else involved should also be charged and for so much more than just fraud. 346 people died. Taking out one rotten apple in a pile of them doesn’t make much of a difference. Boeing has had the ongoing chance to throw out the whole basket but they can’t seem to. As the public, we can’t trusting that the MAX is safe or that necessary changes will be by a company that keep being met with slaps on the wrist for heinous crimes. Until everyone is held accountable, nothing is yet to resemble justice.”
“The indictment of Boeing’s former chief pilot for deceiving federal authorities about the 737 MAX is a corporate whitewash,” said Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner of Clifford Law Offices in Chicago and Lead Counsel in the consolidated litigation against Boeing in the crash of a 737 MAX in Ethiopia in 2019. “The tragic loss of 157 lives could have been prevented had Mark Forkner spoken up but he certainly didn’t act alone.”
Forkner, who led the 737 MAX Flight Technical Team during its rushed development into service, reportedly was charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. He is due to appear Friday in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas. The most serious charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
“This inexcusable type of corporate greed goes far beyond the chief pilot at the company that haphazardly made these aircraft in an effort to increase profits,” Clifford said. “As Lead Counsel in the litigation against Boeing and speaking on behalf of so many families who will never be the same, I implore the DOJ to go further in its criminal investigation and indictments to determine just how far the deception went and who was at the bottom of it all. I think they will find many corporate officials took part in withholding critical information from the certifying agency. A deep-dive criminal investigation is owed to these families who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to the flying public that continues to buy tickets on the MAX aircraft.”
“Even if given the maximum prison sentence, that is nothing compared to those families who will never see their loved ones again. They are gone, gone because Forkner was part of a scheme to hide the truth from those who had the ability to make these planes safe,” Clifford said. “And what was Boeing’s initial reaction to these crashes despite knowing they had cut corners? Boeing executives chose to blame the innocent pilots who were told nothing about the new software system that completely changed the way the aircraft behaved, nor did the pilot training manuals even mention the new software system.”
Clifford refers to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that Forkner allegedly did not share with FAA officials before they approved the aircraft as safe to fly. “The flying public still isn’t certain whether Boeing has changed its ways and is operating with full transparency in allowing this plane and future aircraft to fly,” Clifford said.
To speak to Lead Counsel Robert A. Clifford or a family member if available, contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).