A Major Defense Contractor…

…and powerful defense lobbyist…skates?

Boeing, whose pair of 737 MAX software-related crashes and a range of aircraft manufacture/assembly failures have cost or endangered lives, is being allowed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the US.

In truth, many of the assembly failures being laid off on Boeing in the rush of negative publicity are maintenance failures by the airline companies that own the aircraft involved. And, the manufacture/assembly failures are not factors (at least officially) in the plea agreement in progress—that’s limited to the MAX software-related crashes.

It’s also the case that the second MAX crash was more pilot error than it was a Boeing failure, though Boeing’s handling of the software failure involved in both MAX failures figured in the pilot screwup.

Those notwithstanding though, the plea—offered by the government, not by Boeing—seems a wrist slap.

[P]rosecutors have asked the company to pay a second $244 million criminal fine and spend $455 million over the next three years to improve its compliance and safety programs. Boeing also must hire an independent monitor for three years to oversee those improvements.

On the other hand,

The deal also does not cover any current or former Boeing officials, only the corporation.

The wrist slap in the present case compares to a 2021 “settlement” between Boeing and the government over the same MAX software question in which Boeing was fined a similar $243.6 million and paid an additional $2.5 billion to settle the case.

This, too:

Pleading guilty creates business challenges for Boeing. Companies with felony convictions can be suspended or barred as defense contractors. Boeing is expected to seek a waiver from that consequence. The company was awarded Defense Department contracts last year valued at $22.8 billion, according to federal data.

Getting the whole case boiled down to a single felony count, combined with the small fine and the pro forma business about compliance and being monitored, make it much easier for Boeing to get the waiver. The magnitude of the just signed defense contracts—who would the government get to replace Boeing on the tasks contracted?—also give Boeing leverage in getting the waiver.

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