Justice Department says Boeing breached 2021 agreement that shielded it from criminal charges over 737 Max crashes

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are pictured outside a Boeing factory on March 25, 2024 in Renton, Washington.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

Boeing violated a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement that protected it from criminal charges tied to the fatal 737 Max crashes, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Boeing could now be subject to U.S prosecution, the Justice Department said in a filing in U.S. federal court in Texas. It said it still determining “how it will proceed in this matter” and that Boeing will have 30 days to respond.

The airplane manufacturer broke the agreement by “failing to design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws throughout its operations,” the Justice Department said.

Boeing has been under heightened federal scrutiny after a door panel blew out midair from a 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines on Jan. 5. A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board said bolts that hold in the door plug, which fills an optional emergency exit, didn’t appear to be in place.

The near-tragedy has created a fresh crisis for the manufacturer, just as it was trying to stabilize its production and improve its reputation after the 2018 and 2019 crashes of its best-selling Max planes. All 346 people on those two flights were killed in those crashes.

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