By Andrew Tangel and Andy Pasztor
Boeing Co. /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -3.54% faces criminal and civil scrutiny into years of widespread quality-control lapses on its 737 Max assembly line, according to people familiar with the details, potentially exposing the plane maker to greater legal liability than previously anticipated by industry and government officials.
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The inquiries build on a federal grand-jury investigation into hazardously designed flight-control systems, these people said. As part of the expanded probes, Justice Department prosecutors and federal air-safety regulators have been scrutinizing potentially significant safety problems stemming from 737 Max production missteps, these people said.
The grand jury probe has focused largely on what certain Boeing employees told Federal Aviation Administration officials about the dangers of a faulty stall-prevention feature before it led to two fatal Maxcrashes in less than five months and prompted the March 2019 grounding of the global fleet, according to people familiar with the matter.
But simultaneously, the people familiar with the inquiries said, DOJ prosecutors and FAA investigators also have been examining factory problems that raise red flags about the Chicago plane maker’s compliance with mandatory production rules and safeguards. Boeing found debris mistakenly left behind by workers in fuel tanks or other interior spaces of approximately half of the Max aircraft it inspected starting last November, according to a company spokesman. Another person briefed on the details said most of the undelivered planes have been inspected.