Boeing and Foolish Questions

In a Wall Street Journal article on the tortuous path to criminal prosecution that prosecutors would have in bringing Boeing to criminal trial over its 737 MAX crashes, Andrew Tangel, Jacob Gershman, and Andy Pasztor asked what seems to me to be a very narrow, short-sighted question.

Should prosecutors weigh Boeing’s importance to the economy and national security when deciding how to proceed with a criminal case over the 737 MAX crashes?

Of course prosecutors should—must—not. What’s truly important is the concept of weighing the risks to liberty and to national security of criminals being too big to be punished. We can never allow such a thing to enter even the run-up to criminal prosecutions.

If criminal actions can be seriously alleged against Boeing—based on the company’s behaviors—the company must come to trial. Only if found guilty, so there’d be a criminal sanction phase, could Boeing’s importance to our economy and our national security legitimately be considered—and then, not on the magnitude of the penalty(s), which absolutely must fit the crime(s), but only on the penalty(s)’s schedules of application, with interest accruing on any fiscal penalties not paid “promptly.”

The question of criminal trials for various individuals of Boeing’s management (and its aircraft testing function?) is an entirely separate matter.  The company’s importance to anything is wholly irrelevant here; the company can easily survive any number of its managers being locked up in a Federal hoosegow.

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