Embattled aerospace giant Boeing disclosed in a regulatory filing it’s being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, in addition to already facing investigations by the U.S Department of Justice, following two plane crashes that happened less than five months apart.
In a Jan. 31 Form 10-K, Boeing disclosed “multiple legal actions” have been filed against it as a result of the Oct. 29, 2018, accident of Lion Air Flight 610 and March 10, 2019, accident of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The company notes the DOJ and SEC are among regulators probing the accidents and the 737 Max airline involved in each crash.
Government investigations are not the only problem Boeing must address in the immediate term. Its toxic culture is another.
Earlier in January, the company publicly released more than 100 pages of internal communications between employees—including instant messages and emails—that contained, as Boeing described in a statement, “provocative language, and, in certain instances, raise questions about Boeing’s interactions with the [Federal Aviation Authority] in connection with the simulator qualification process.” Copies of these communications were also provided to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure “in recognition of their oversight functions,” Boeing said.
Throughout these communications, between 2013 and 2018, employees mocked management and aviation regulators, ridiculing the safety of the 737 Max. “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” one email stated.
Other employees painted a picture of Boeing’s toxic culture. For example, one employee said, “‘I don’t know how to fix these things … it’s systemic. It’s culture. It’s the fact we have a senior leadership team that understand very little about the business and yet are driving us to certain objectives.’”
Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure—the regulator investigating the design, development, and certification of the 737 Max—said in a statement the emails are “incredibly damning” and “paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally.”
DeFazio added the committee through its investigation has uncovered “multiple, serious problems with Boeing’s decision-making and the priority that was placed on production and profit over safety.”
“But these new emails bring my concerns to an entirely new level,” he said. “They show a coordinated effort dating back to the earliest days of the 737 MAX program to conceal critical information from regulators and the public.”
In its statement, Boeing said these communications “do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and they are completely unacceptable.” Boeing added it has “made significant changes as a company to enhance our safety processes, organizations, and culture. The language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response. This will ultimately include disciplinary or other personnel action, once the necessary reviews are completed.”
Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg resigned in December amid criticism of the company’s handling of the two deadly crashes.