Airplane manufacturer Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States regarding two fatal 737 Max crashes.

The crashes, which occurred in 2018 and 2019, killed 346 people.

The plea deal would force the company to pay fines up to $487 million.

However, that’s only a fraction of the $24.8 billion sought by crash victims’ families.

“The parties have agreed in principle to the material terms of a plea agreement that would, among other things, hold Boeing accountable for its material misstatements to the Federal Aviation Administration, require Boeing to pay the statutory maximum fine, require Boeing to invest at least $455 million in its compliance and safety programs, impose an independent compliance monitor, and allow the Court to determine the restitution amount for the families in its discretion, consistent with applicable law,” a Justice Department court filing read.

CNN reports:

The families of victims of two fatal crashes of the 737 Max oppose the deal, the department said.

The guilty plea is a severe blow to the reputation of Boeing, a company once known for the quality and safety of its commercial planes. Beyond the fatal crashes of the 737 Max jets, the company has faced a series of questions about the safety and quality of its planes. In January, a door plug on a 737 Max flown by Alaska Airlines blew out early in a flight, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the jet and further damaging Boeing’s reputation.

The agreement stipulates that Boeing will have to operate under the oversight of an independent monitor, to be chosen by the government, for a period of three years. But that oversight and the fine did not satisfy the families of victims, according to one of their attorneys.

“This sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing’s conspiracy, 346 people died,” said a statement from Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah who represents many family members of the 2018 Lion Air crash and 2019 Ethiopian Air crash victims.

“This deceptive and generous deal is clearly not in the public interest,” he added. The families are seeking a public trial on the charges.

The Justice Department argues that the penalties Boeing agreed to were the most serious available. It argued it won other improvements as well, including the oversight of a monitor and the demand that Boeing spend more on safety and compliance of rules when building aircraft.

“First 4 pages of DOJ filing, saying that Boeing will plead guilty to fraud. Many relatives of those who died in the 2 MAX crashes wanted DOJ to put Boeing on trial; that won’t happen,” Associated Press airline reporter David Koenig wrote.

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Per Reuters:

Boeing subsequently struck a deal with the Justice Department deferring any prosecution, in return for compensating victims’ families and improving its compliance.

However, officials this year concluded that the firm had not complied with all terms of the deal.

Boeing’s position wasn’t helped by the midair blowout on another MAX plane earlier this year, which raised new concerns about its quality control.

It faces a separate criminal probe over that incident.

Now the plea deal sees the firm admit to making false representations over a software system involved in the crashes.

It spares the company a contentious trial – but could result in other big costs.

The conviction could bar Boeing from lucrative defense and NASA contracts unless it can agree waivers.

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