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The US Department of Justice says Boeing could be sued for violating a defense agreement that avoids criminal charges over 737 crashes.

The US Department of Justice says Boeing could be sued for violating a defense agreement that avoids criminal charges over 737 crashes.

(CNN) —The United States Department of Defense on Tuesday notified Boeing that it violated the terms of its 2021 contract in which the company avoided criminal charges for two fatal 737 Max crashes.

After a series of safety lapses earlier this year, including an exploding door plug on an Alaska Airlines plane shortly after takeoff in January, the Justice Department said Boeing is now the subject of a criminal case.

“For failure to fully comply with the terms and obligations under s [acuerdo de procesamiento diferido]”Boeing will be prosecuted by the United States for any federal criminal violations of which the United States is aware,” the Justice Department said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, who oversaw the previous deal. .

However, the Biden administration said in its letter that it has not yet decided how it will proceed and that Boeing will have an opportunity to respond to its failure to comply with the agreement (and the steps it has taken to remedy the situation) by June. 13 and will inform the court before July 7 how he will proceed with the case.

The announcement comes as the Justice Department launches a new investigation into Boeing’s operations following the doorstop incident. The earlier deal settled a fraud investigation into the company’s construction of its 737 Max aircraft.

Under its January 2021 deferred prosecution agreement, Boeing paid a $2.5 billion fine and pledged to improve its safety and compliance practices. The families of the victims of the October 2018 Lion Air 737 Max crash and the March 2019 Ethiopian 737 Max crash have long condemned the delay in a plea deal denying justice for the deaths of their loved ones.

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Victims’ families and lawyers representing them met with the Justice Department late last month to urge the Biden administration to end the deal after the 2021 deal was reached, in light of several safety failures at Boeing this year.

After the April 2024 meeting, attorney Paul Cassell, who represents the victims’ families, said at a news conference that the deferred prosecution agreement was “bad” and was negotiated without the families’ input. Cassell vowed to hold Boeing accountable for its “fraud and misconduct.”

On Tuesday, Cassell said: “This is a positive first step, and it will be a long time coming for the families. But the Department of Justice needs to take further steps to use our May 31 meeting to explain in more detail what we believe will be a satisfactory solution to Boeing’s ongoing wrongdoing.”

In its letter, the Justice Department said Boeing has notified the families of its breach of contract and will continue to consult with the families of the victims and other airline customers about next steps. The Department of Justice plans to meet with the families on May 31.

In a letter Thursday to the federal judge overseeing the earlier deal, the Justice Department said it had notified the company that “the government has determined that Boeing breached its obligations” in several areas of the 2021 contract. ” A compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of US fraud laws throughout its operations.”

Boeing’s safety issues after the deal

Despite vowing to clean up its act, Boeing had endless quality and safety failures in the years after its deferred litigation agreement.

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On September 20, 2021, a few months into their contract, Boeing revealed its discovery Empty tequila bottles One of two 747s being refurbished for use as the next generation of Air Force One.

In April 2023, Boeing announced that its supplier used a “substandard manufacturing process”, delaying 737 Max deliveries.

In February 2024, a month after the door stop incident, a plane leaving a Boeing factory was missing four bolts needed to secure the door stopper, a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found. Later that month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a report highly critical of Boeing’s culture, citing “gaps in Boeing’s safety track” and giving Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to fix its problems. Subsequent FAA reports found several problems with Boeing’s manufacturing practices following a six-week audit.

In March, the FAA found more safety issues with the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner engines.

Last month, the FAA announced an investigation into a whistleblower’s complaint that the company took shortcuts in manufacturing its 777 and 787 Dreamliners, and that those risks could prove disastrous as the planes age. The company denied the complaint.

CNN’s Chris Isidore and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.