Families Of Boeing 737 MAX Crash Victims Ask US To Seek $24 Billion Fine

Relatives of the victims of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes urged the Justice Department on Wednesday to impose a fine of up to $24.78 billion on the planemaker and pursue a criminal prosecution. Paul Cassel, a lawyer representing 15 families, wrote in a letter to the Justice Department that “because Boeing’s crime is the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history, a maximum fine of more than $24 billion is legally justified and clearly appropriate.”

The families suggested the Justice Department could potentially suspend $14 billion to $22 billion of the fine on the condition that Boeing allocates those suspended funds to an independent corporate monitor and related improvements in compliance and safety.

In May, the Justice Department determined Boeing violated a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement, which had shielded the company from a criminal charge of conspiracy to commit fraud following the fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. Last week, Boeing informed the government it did not violate the agreement. Federal prosecutors have until July 7 to inform a federal judge in Texas of their plans, which include proceeding with a criminal case or negotiating a plea deal with Boeing. The Justice Department could also extend the deferred prosecution agreement for another year.

Justice Department officials found Boeing violated the deferred prosecution agreement after a panel blew off a new Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet on January 5, just two days before the 2021 agreement expired. This incident revealed ongoing safety and quality issues at Boeing.

In their letter, the families also demanded Boeing’s board of directors meet with them and called on the department to launch criminal prosecutions against the responsible corporate officials at Boeing at the time of the two crashes. Boeing and the Justice Department did not immediately comment.

The letter also cited Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and held a hearing with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun on Tuesday. Blumenthal stated, “There is near overwhelming evidence in my view as a former prosecutor that prosecution should be pursued.”

The two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 MAX planes occurred in 2018 and 2019 in Indonesia and Ethiopia, leading to the worldwide grounding of the best-selling plane for 20 months. Investigations linked both crashes to a safety system called MCAS.