Outlawing Corporate Prosecution Deals When People Have Died

By Peter R. Reilly. 

Two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashes, occurring less than five months apart in 2018 and 2019, resulted in 346 deaths—possibly the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history. The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) used an alternative dispute resolution tool called a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) to resolve criminal charges against Boeing and to immunize the company’s senior-level managers from prosecution. In the end, the company admitted to engaging in the criminal behavior, paid a monetary fine, and agreed to cooperate fully with the government—meaning there would be no courtroom trial, no formal adjudication of guilt, and no possibility of jail time or other serious punishment for wrongdoers. DOJ also decided it would not appoint an independent monitor to ensure Boeing’s compliance with terms of the DPA agreement. These results are profoundly unjust. In response, the United States Congress should immediately outlaw the use of DPAs in addressing federal allegations of corporate misconduct when the wrongdoing leads to one or more human fatalities. To date, Congress has failed to draw any boundaries limiting DOJ’s use of DPAs as a tool in resolving allegations of corporate malfeasance. Full Article.