Aircraft maker Boeing has agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion (over Rs 18,350 crore) in fines and compensation after reaching a settlement with the United States Department of Justice for two plane crashes that killed 346 people and led to the grounding of its 737 MAX jetliner model, Reuters reported on Friday.
The aircraft was grounded around the world in March 2019 after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The ban was not lifted until November 2020, after Boeing made significant safety upgrades and improvements in pilot training. It was also charged with a count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to Reuters.
The settlement, which allows Boeing to avoid prosecution, includes a fine of $243.6 million (over Rs 1,788 crore), compensation to airlines of $1.77 billion (Rs 12,991 crore) and a $500 million (Rs 3,669 crore) crash-victim fund over fraud conspiracy charges related to the plane’s flawed design.
“The tragic crashes of Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers,” David Burns, acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, wrote in a release, according to The Guardian. He said that Boeing employees chose “the path of profit over candor by concealing material information” from the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a note to employees, Boeing Chief Executive David Calhoun said the agreement “appropriately acknowledges how we fell short of our values and expectations”, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of US, who oversaw a lengthy probe into the crashes, suggested that the settlement amount was not enough.
“Not only is the dollar amount of the settlement a mere fraction of Boeing’s annual revenue, the settlement sidesteps any real accountability in terms of criminal charges,” he said, adding that it was an insult to the 346 victims who died as a result of corporate greed.