737 Max crash victims’ families seek $25 billion fine on Boeing

Allyson Versprille | Bloomberg News (TNS)

Families of the victims of two fatal 737 Max crashes are asking the Justice Department to seek to fine Boeing Co. nearly $25 billion, saying the company committed “the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history.”

That amount is “legally justified and clearly appropriate,” Paul Cassell, an attorney who represents 15 victims’ families, said in a letter sent to the DOJ on Wednesday. Cassell suggested that $14 billion to $22 billion of the total amount could be suspended if Boeing devotes those funds to an independent corporate monitor and improvements to its safety programs. Cassell also said DOJ should pursue criminal prosecution of the company and that the planemaker’s board of directors should be ordered to meet with the families.

The letter comes a day after Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun faced a public grilling from U.S. senators, who called on the company to fix its “broken safety culture.”

Boeing and the DOJ didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment during a U.S. holiday.

Boeing has been under heightened scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers after a fuselage panel on a 737 Max blew off mid-flight in January. The near-catastrophe sparked a criminal investigation and prompted the DOJ to consider throwing out a deferred-prosecution agreement that was put in place after the 737 Max crashes, which killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019. That deal was set to expire just days after the accident.

The DOJ determined last month that the company had breached the 2021 agreement — a conclusion that Boeing refutes — and now has until July 7 to decide what punishment Boeing should face, if any. Possibilities include criminal charges or drawing up a new deal with additional conditions.

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In the letter, the families also called on the DOJ to prosecute Boeing executives who were at the company at the time of the two crashes. Prosecutors previously indicated to the families that the five-year deadline for bringing criminal charges would likely doom any prosecution effort targeting individuals.

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