Boeing to pay $200 million to settle charges over 'misleading' crash statements

Former CEO Dennis Muilenburg also agreed to pay the SEC $1 million.

Peter Cziborra / reuters

Boeing has agreed to pay $200 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency found that Boeing made "materially misleading public statements" related to crashes involving its 737 Max aircraft. The company's former CEO Dennis Muilenburg will also pay $1 million to settle charges. The SEC alleged that Boeing and Muilenburg violated the antifraud provisions of federal securities laws. They neither admitted to nor denied the agency's findings.

The SEC alleged that, after the first crash in October 2018, which caused the death of 189 people, Boeing and Muilenburg were aware that the anti-stall Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) posed an ongoing safety concern. However, the company told the public that the 737 Max was “as safe as any airplane that has ever flown the skies.”

After a second crash in March 2019, in which 157 people died, the company and Muilenburg claimed "there were no slips or gaps in the certification process with respect to MCAS, despite being aware of contrary information," the SEC said in a statement. Following the crashes, all 737 Max planes were grounded for over 18 months.

"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of life brought about by these two airplane crashes," SEC Chair Gary Gensler said. "In times of crisis and tragedy, it is especially important that public companies and executives provide full, fair and truthful disclosures to the markets. The Boeing Company and its former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, failed in this most basic obligation. They misled investors by providing assurances about the safety of the 737 Max, despite knowing about serious safety concerns."

The settlement "fully resolves the SEC’s previously disclosed inquiry into matters relating to the 737 Max accidents," Boeing told CNN. “Today’s settlement is part of the company’s broader effort to responsibly resolve outstanding legal matters related to the 737 Max accidents in a manner that serves the best interests of our shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders."

Boeing previously reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the Department of Justice to avoid criminal charges. Last year, a grand jury indicted Boeing's former chief technical pilot, Mark A. Forkner, on fraud charges. Forkner, the only Boeing employee who has faced a criminal indictment in relation to the crashes, was accused of deceiving the FAA's Aircraft Evaluation Group during evaluation and certification of the 737 Max. Following a four-day trial earlier this year, a jury found Forkner not guilty.