Prosecutors Face Complex Path to Charging Boeing Over 737 MAX
Should prosecutors weigh Boeing's importance to the economy and national security when deciding how to proceed with a criminal case over the 737 MAX crashes?
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November 4, 2019 - by By Andrew Tangel, Jacob Gershman and Andy Pasztor for wsj.com
- Should prosecutors weigh Boeing's importance to the economy and national security when deciding how to proceed with a criminal case over the 737 MAX crashes?
Federal prosecutors would face a daunting challenge in mounting a criminal case against Boeing Co. BA +1.28% or its employees, legal experts said, even with evidence showing workers sounded alarms about the 737 MAX's safety and a company pilot's chat messages suggesting he misled regulators.
The Justice Department launched a criminal probe after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Indonesia in late 2018, killing 189 people, and continued after Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down in Ethiopia, killing 157 people in March.
It has focused on whether Boeing cut corners at the expense of safety in developing the 737 MAX and whether the plane maker provided misleading or incomplete information to airlines or regulators, said people familiar with the matter.
To bring a successful criminal case against Boeing itself, prosecutors would have to show that executives repeatedly concealed or ignored the 737 MAX's engineering problems, experts said.
And there is a larger economic and political component: A corporate indictment and potentially huge sanctions must be balanced against the economic and national-security risks of incapacitating the country's second-biggest defense contractor behind Lockheed Martin Corp.
Boeing's defense division backlog stood at $62 billion as of Sept. 30, much of that reflecting U.S. orders...
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