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A ground crew member prepares to help push American Airlines flight 718, a Boeing 737 Max, away from its gate at Miami International Airport on Dec. 29. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Boeing has agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle criminal charges related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration in connection with the agency's investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Two Boeing 737 MAX crashes killed a total of 346 people in 2018 and 2019 and highlighted massive oversight and safety lapses on the part of the airline manufacturer.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Joann Muller: Boeing, which recently won permission to resume flights of the 737 MAX, is eager to put this shameful episode behind it and managed to escape an appointment of a government monitor. But the criminal settlement suggests the company continues to cooperate with ongoing and future investigations.

What they're saying: “The misleading statements, half-truths, and omissions communicated by Boeing employees to the FAA impeded the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the flying public,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement.

Details: Per the Justice Department, Boeing admitted in court documents that it deceived the FAA about a change in the aircraft's software that affected the flight control system of the Boeing 737 MAX. The criminal charges will be dismissed after 3 years if Boeing complies, per a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

  • Boeing's $2.5 billion fee includes a criminal monetary penalty of $243.6 million, plus $1.77 billion in compensation payments to Boeing’s 737 MAX airline customers which the company says it has already set aside — and the creation of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund.
  • The company expects to incur earnings charges equal to the remaining $743.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Go deeper

FAA will pursue "strong enforcement" after unruly pro-Trump passengers disrupt flights

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson testifies before a Senate panel examining safety certification of jetliners on June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Pool/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that the agency will "pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of a flight," after unruly behavior took place on several flights to and from the Washington, D.C. area this week.

Driving the news: American Airlines is investigating an unruly and frightening episode on a flight to D.C., the night before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Alaska Airlines said it had banned 14 passengers after a rowdy flight from an airport near Washington, D.C., to Seattle on Thursday, per Bloomberg.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."