Families of Boeing Max crash victims set to face company in US court
NEW YORK, (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – January 26, 2023 ) : Relatives of passengers killed in twin Boeing 737 Max crashes are to face the airplane maker in a US court on Thursday, nearly four years after the tragedies in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
The proceedings in Fort Worth, Texas, which have long been sought by families and opposed by the aerospace giant, are expected to include Boeing’s entry into a US criminal settlement over the disaster that claimed 346 lives. or not guilty.
The families have already scored some victories from US District Judge Reed O’Connor, who last week ordered a Boeing representative to appear at Thursday’s hearing after ruling in October that the Justice Department deferred prosecution of Boeing. Agreement (DPA) was violated. of the rights of families.
But they were stepping stones to the families’ ultimate ambition in the case: undoing key elements of the DPA, which required restitution to Boeing in exchange for a $2.5 billion fine and immunity from criminal prosecution for the allegations. Boeing cheated the government during certification. Max.
Boeing and its top executives don’t deserve such relief, argue attorneys for the families, who plan to ask the court to install an independent monitor because “the Justice Department cannot be trusted to monitor Boeing.” Can be done,” he summarized.
“This is a case where 346 people have died,” attorney Paul Cassell told AFP. “Why you wouldn’t want an independent eye to take a look inside and make sure criminal conduct isn’t still going on is beyond me.” Boeing has refrained from commenting on the case outside of legal briefs, but Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told CNBC on Wednesday that he felt “nothing but heartbreak” for the families and supported their right to a hearing.
“With regard to the legal proceedings, this is not a subject that I am qualified to talk about,” Calhoun said.
The families have criticized the agreement since it was announced in January 2021, waging a battle not only against Boeing but also against the other 800-pound gorilla: the Justice Department.
In unveiling the settlement, the DOJ said Boeing was being held accountable for “fraudulent and deceptive” conduct toward Federal Aviation Administration regulators during MAX certification, when the company denied significant information about the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). The facts omitted a flight management system which malfunctioned badly in both accidents.
The DOJ case exposed the deception of two Boeing technical pilots, but according to the DPA, Boeing’s findings of misconduct were neither “comprehensive” nor “facilitated by senior management”.
But the families rejected the legality of the agreement, arguing in legal briefs that Boeing’s immunity from prosecution should be stripped because the DOJ violated the US Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which requires the government to enter into the agreement before it can. He needed to be honored.
O’Connor, in an October 21 decision, supported the families’ essential argument, ruling that they qualified as “crime victims” and concluding that Boeing’s deception had cost relatives their loved ones.
In short, O’Connor wrote, “But for Boeing’s criminal conspiracy to defraud the FAA, the accidents would not have resulted in the loss of 346 lives.”
Adding to the families’ momentum has been the Securities and Exchange Commission, which in September fined Boeing $200 million for misleading investors about the Max.
The SEC case was based on a press release approved by then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg after the first fatal crash on Lion Air in Indonesia in November 2018.
He said the Max was “as safe as any aircraft that’s ever flown in the skies,” even though the company was urgently addressing the MCAS problem.
The agency also fined Muilenburg $1 million in agreement with the ex-CEO, accusing him of making “materially misleading” statements.
O’Connor has not ruled out possible remedies.
Legal experts say courts usually show deference to the DOJ on such agreements.
“The judges could strike down the DPA, but I think it’s unlikely,” Columbia University professor John Coffey said, citing the Boeing agreement as emblematic of the government’s tendency to go easy on big, powerful companies. criticized.
“Prosecutors and the executive branch are given a lot of discretion by law in that area (the decision to prosecute),” Coffey told AFP in an email.
Brandon Garrett, a professor at Duke University Law School, said courts should consider the public interest when reviewing DPAs, adding that US law “allows for such review.” have generally opposed such reviews.
Garrett said, “If this judge rejects the settlement, I can imagine that the DOJ will appeal, citing its prosecutorial discretion to suspend prosecution.”