Texas Federal Judge Rejects Challenge to Boeing Deferred Prosecution Agreement

On Thursday, a Texas federal judge rejected an attempt by families of victims on the Boeing 737 MAX crashes to nullify a deferred prosecution agreement that shielded the company from criminal prosecution.[0] The October 2018 and March 2019 crashes killed a combined 346 people.[1]

Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas wrote in a 30-page ruling that he has “immense sympathy” for the families of the victims, but that federal law does not give courts the power to oversee agreements that prosecutors make with defendants.

The agreement from January 2021 with the Justice Department included a $243.6 million fine, $500 million in victim compensation and $1.77 billion in compensation to airlines.[2] Payments the company had already made to carriers for delivery delays due to the 20-month global safety grounding of the MAX were taken into account when calculating the compensation.[2]

It seems that the decision has put an end to the endeavor of some passengers' relatives to annul the settlement Boeing made with the Justice Department in January 2021.[1] Paul Cassell, a former federal judge representing the families, said they would appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.[3]

At the January 26 hearing, Boeing pleaded not guilty to fraud, and more than a dozen family members gave emotional testimony about their grief and outrage at Boeing’s actions.[4] It was suggested that Boeing executives should be held accountable through prosecution.[5] When Boeing entered a plea of not guilty in Texas last month in regards to a charge of fraud related to its withholding of flight control flaws from regulators, the families declared that the company had breached the agreement.[6]

In his ruling, O’Connor said, “This court has immense sympathy for the victims and loved ones of those who died in the tragic plane crashes resulting from Boeing’s criminal conspiracy. Had Congress vested this court with sweeping authority to ensure that justice is done in a case like this one, it would not hesitate.”[3]

The spokesperson for Boeing declined to address the ruling and instead referred to the company's prior declaration that they are adhering strictly to the agreement they made with the Department of Justice two years ago.[7] The company has expressed its condolences to those affected by the crashes and has assured that modifications have been made to avoid such incidents in the future.[1]

The Department of Justice declined to make any statement.[8]

0. “Judge rips Boeing but nixes family members' bid to toss 737 MAX plea deal (NYSE:BA)” Seeking Alpha, 10 Feb. 2023, https://seekingalpha.com/news/3934830-judge-rips-boeing-but-nixes-family-members-bid-to-toss-737-max-plea-deal

1. “Victim's Father ‘Disappointed' After Judge Rejects to Nullify Boeing's DOJ Deal Over Crashes” NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, 11 Feb. 2023, https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/victims-father-disappointed-after-judge-rejects-to-nullify-boeings-doj-deal-over-crashes/3192257/

2. “Federal judge blisters Boeing but denies bid to scrap MAX plea deal – Wichita Business Journal” The Business Journals, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/news/2023/02/10/max-justice-agreement-upheld.html

3. “Boeing crash victims' families lose bid to block DOJ deal” The Spokesman Review, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2023/feb/10/boeing-crash-victims-families-lose-bid-to-block-do

4. “Attorneys accuse Boeing of violating 737 Max settlement with Department of Justice” Flightglobal, 2 Feb. 2023, https://www.flightglobal.com/airframers/attorneys-accuse-boeing-of-violating-737-max-settlement-with-department-of-justice/151913.article

5. “Judge rejects bid to nullify Boeing deal over Max crashes” The Washington Post, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/judge-rejects-bid-to-nullify-boeing-deal-over-max-crashes/2023/02/10/ddb65fb8-a965-11ed-b2a3-edb05ee0e313_story.html

6. “Families of Boeing 737 Max Crash Victims Claim Not-Guilty Plea Violates Settlement” Bloomberg, 3 Feb. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-02-02/boeing-crash-families-claim-not-guilty-plea-violates-settlement

7. “Judge Denies Boeing 737 MAX Families’ Request to Reject DOJ Deal” The Wall Street Journal, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-denies-boeing-737-max-families-request-to-reject-doj-deal-635cf332

8. “Judge rejects families' push to prosecute Boeing in 737 Max deaths” The Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2023/02/10/boeing-737-max-deaths-judge