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U.S. government says Boeing in breach of U.S. fraud laws agreement

Published May 15,2024
(File Photo)
Aircraft maker Boeing violated the terms of a U.S. agreement that has so far protected it from prosecution following two fatal plane crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Boeing had not implemented a programme to prevent violations of U.S. fraud laws as agreed, according to court documents filed on Tuesday. The government says it has not yet decided how to proceed in the matter.

Boeing was given until June 13 to provide an official response. In an initial reaction on Tuesday, the company emphasized that, in its own estimation, it had complied with the agreement.

The crashes of two Boeing 737-Max aircraft in October 2018 and March 2019 killed 346 people. According to investigations, one of the accidents was caused by faulty software on the aircraft that was supposed to support pilots but interfered with the controls more than they expected.

Boeing was criticized because the aircraft manufacturer had declared special training for the software unnecessary when the type was certified by the U.S. authorities.

In accordance with the agreement with the U.S. government, Boeing paid a fine of $243 million. In return, the allegations of fraud in connection with the information provided to the U.S. authorities were not pursued further.

However, Boeing was required to implement a compliance and ethics programme. The Department of Justice has now emphasised that a breach of this can again result in criminal prosecution of the company.

After the two crashes, the 737 Max aircraft had to remain on the ground for months, until Boeing carried out improvements.

This year, the company once again came to the attention of the authorities after a piece of fueselage blew off an almost new Boeing 737-9 Max operated by U.S. carrier Alaska Airlines in mid-air in January.

Nobody was seriously injured in the incident.

The U.S. government subsequently launched an investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) called on Boeing to submit a plan to improve quality controls. The FAA also blocked Boeing's planned expansion of 737 Max production until further notice.