Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has been criticised and heavily fined by the US government for its actions relating to the fatal crashes of two of its 737 Max airliners.
The company had put profit ahead of truth and attempted to conceal its deceptions, investigators said in a release by David Burns, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Boeing has now been fined US$2.5-billion by the United States Department of Justice after being charged with fraud and conspiracy.
US$2.2-billion in compensation to families
The settlement announced late last week includes US$2.2-billion in compensation to the families of the people killed in the two Max crashes, plus a US$243-million fine.
The aircraft that crashed in 2019, killing 346 people, were operated by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines.
But lawyers acting for the families of the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims have dismissed the settlement and said they will carry on their litigation against US-based Boeing.
“The allegations in the deferred prosecution agreement are just the tip of the iceberg of Boeing’s wrongdoing – a corporation that pays billions of dollars to avoid criminal liability while stonewalling and fighting the families in court,” the legal firm said.
Lawyers for victims’ families continue fight
“This agreement, including the ‘crash-victim beneficiaries fund’, has no bearing on the pending civil litigation against Boeing, which we plan to prosecute fully to ensure the families receive the justice they deserve.”
The statement from Clifford Law Offices added that the 737 Max should not have been returned to service “until all of the airplane’s deficiencies are addressed and it has undergone transparent and independent safety reviews – which to date still has not occurred”.
Boeing Max aircraft returned to service in the United States in December 2020. The Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019 following the two incidents.
Boeing sought to cover up the deception
Meanwhile, in his release, Acting Assistant Attorney General Burns said Boeing employees chose “the path of profit over candour by concealing material information” from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
He said the company had also engaged “in an effort to cover up their deception”.
David Calhoun, Boeing’s President and Chief Executive Officer, has acknowledged that the company “fell short of our values and expectations”. But Boeing has consistently laid blame for any deception and release of incorrect information on the actions of individual employees.
During a congressional hearing in late 2019, one senator accused Boeing of selling “flying coffins” as a result of its decision to conceal issues with the planes from pilots.