Boeing Co pleads not guilty in fraud case over 737Max crashes


Boeing Co pleaded not guilty to deceiving federal regulators about changes made to its 737Max flight control system that led to two horrific crashes in 2018 and 2019.
The airplane manufacturing giant’s arraignment in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, marks the first time the company has been forced to publicly answer to a criminal charge connected to the disasters. Two years ago, Boeing reached a controversial deferred prosecution agreement with the government that granted the company legal immunity.
Mike Delaney, Boeing’s chief safety officer, entered the plea on Thursday on behalf of the company, telling US district Judge Reed O’Connor that Boeing stands by its admissions of fault expressed in its agreement with the US justice department, even while it’s contesting the pending felony charge. The not-guilty plea could put the company at risk of violating the earlier agreement, which forbade it from denying its role in hiding issues with the 737Max flight control system from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The arraignment on Thursday was a hard-fought victory for relatives of people killed in the 737Max crashes, who’ve spent the past year fighting to unwind the deferred prosecution agreement and have their voices heard. Lawyers for the families argue that they were blindsided by the 2021 deal and weren’t consulted on its terms.
O’Connor sided with the relatives in October, declaring them legal crime victims and stating that they should have been part of conversations with federal prosecutors about the deal. The families of 10 crash victims were set to speak in person during the hearing. They’re expected to tell the court about the acute emotional and financial hardships they have suffered as a result of Boeing’s behaviour.
The 2021 deal resolved a probe of Boeing’s role in crashes that killed 346 people and required the company to admit to conduct that would support a charge of conspiracy to defraud the US.

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