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Boeing agrees in principle to deal with DOJ to plead guilty to misleading FAA during 737 MAX evaluation

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(FORT WORTH, Texas) — The Boeing Company has agreed in principle to a deal with the Department of Justice that will include a guilty plea to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. related to the company allegedly misleading the Federal Aviation Administration during the evaluation of the 737 MAX, according to a court filing from the DOJ.

“We can confirm that we have reached an agreement in principle on terms of a resolution with the Justice Department, subject to the memorialization and approval of specific terms,” Boeing said in a statement to ABC News early Monday morning.

In addition to the guilty plea, the agreement includes Boeing paying the maximum statutory fine and investing at least $455 million in its compliance and safety programs.

The deal is not yet final, and families of the victims of the MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 have expressed their intention to oppose this plea agreement. The families have asked for an opportunity to file their opposition with the court, according to a court filing in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas.

According to the DOJ’s court filing late Sunday night, the parties are “proceeding expeditiously to document and memorialize the terms and understandings into a written plea agreement and expect to file the agreement with the Court by no later than July 19, 2024.”

Some 189 people died when a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plunged into the Java Sea off Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018. Black box data from the Lion Air jet revealed the pilots struggled to fight the plane’s malfunctioning safety system from takeoff to the moment it nose-dived into the water.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — another Boeing 737 MAX 8 — crashed five months later near Addis Ababa airport six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.

In a separate court filing late Sunday night, attorneys for families of victims of the two MAX crashes indicated that they intend to exercise their rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act to be heard in opposition to the proposed plea.

“The families intend to argue that the plea deal with Boeing unfairly makes concessions to Boeing that other criminal defendants would never receive and fails to hold Boeing accountable for the deaths of 346 persons. As a result, the generous plea agreement rests on deceptive and offensive premises,” the attorneys wrote.

“At the upcoming hearing regarding the plea, families intend to ask the Court to reject the plea,” the filing states.

The families have asked that the court not set a scheduling order for the hearing until at least July 12 to give them ample time to file a briefing with their reasons why the court should reject the plea.

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