Dennis Muilenburg
Source: Getty Images

Dennis Muilenburg's Level of Culpability in Boeing's Missteps Is Finally Clear

Jamie Lerner - Author
By

Feb. 25 2022, Published 9:40 a.m. ET

Many of us have been reminded of the atrocities committed by Boeing that led to the deaths of 346 people thanks to Netflix’s Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. But we still have a lot of questions about Boeing’s former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg. What exactly was his part in the 737 Max crashes? Was he really responsible for them?

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We learn at the end of the documentary that not only does Muilenburg walk away relatively unscathed, but because of the settlement agreement reached between Boeing and the Department of Justice, he won’t undergo any criminal prosecution. So what’s the deal with Dennis Muilenburg? What’s he up to now?

Dennis Muilenburg
Source: Getty Images
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Dennis Muilenburg is the former CEO of Boeing at the center of Boeing’s 737 Max scandal explored in ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.’

Throughout Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, we learn what really happened during the fatal crashes. Basically, Boeing hid a new system called the MCAS from airlines and pilots in order to make the aircraft more appealing. Making the new plane seem as close to the old model as possible wouldn’t require any pilot training, which is typically very costly and time-consuming.

Boeing employees and engineers tried to stress the importance of training pilots on the MCAS, but Boeing executives decided it would be better to hide this new system. So when the system failed and the planes nosedived, the pilots had no way to stop it. Basically, if pilots didn’t recognize the problem and take the correct actions within 10 seconds, it would be fatal, and executives were aware of this.

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During Boeing’s trial, the Department of Justice found the corporation to be guilty of conspiracy to defraud the FAA. But because of a settlement, the individual executives involved in this conspiracy walked away without any criminal blame, despite the 346 lives lost due to their greed.

Former CEO Dennis Muilenburg led Boeing to its downfall thanks to several missteps.

One of those executives is of course former CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Much of the fault is on his shoulders due to several missteps. The first is hiding the MCAS. Boeing’s Board of Directors, led by Muilenburg at the time, decided that selling more planes was more important than making sure those planes were 100 percent safe.

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 Dennis Muilenburg looking at victims' families at the Boeing trial
Source: Getty Images

The Board would later learn this was a short-sighted decision; the crashes left Boeing with devalued stocks and $2.5 billion short thanks to their settlement. In addition, after the first crash, which killed all 189 passengers, rather than admitting fault and grounding the planes, Muilenburg spoke on multiple news networks to reassure passengers and shareholders that the planes were 100 percent safe, despite knowing otherwise.

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Muilenburg purposely and knowingly put aircraft passengers at risk while trying to place blame on the pilot and airline instead of on Boeing. Then the second crash happened, killing an additional 157 people. Those people wouldn’t have died if Boeing had just admitted fault and fixed the problem.

Dennis Muilenburg
Source: Getty Images
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Even after the second crash, Muilenburg tried once more to convince the public that Boeing’s 737 Max was safe. However, it's rare for there to be two crashes of modern aircraft carriers within five months of each other, so countries around the world decided to ground the planes against Boeing’s wishes. Muilenburg always put profit over people, and in the end, it caused Boeing’s financial and reputational collapse.

Dennis Muilenburg walked away from the Boeing scandal relatively unscathed.

In October 2019, Muilenburg testified that he did know after the first crash that a top pilot voiced some concerns about the MCAS. However, he and the Board chose to ignore these concerns. In addition, as both chairman and CEO, he led the company on a media spree to prove that the fault was on the pilots (even though we now know it wasn’t). By the time of his testimony before Congress, he was pressured by the Board to step down as chairman, although he retained his title as CEO.

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Two months later, he was pressured to step down as CEO. But the Board is also at fault here. If they had flat-out fired him, he would’ve lost all access to his pension and stock options. But because they simply pressured him to step down, the documentary revealed, “He received stock and pension awards of $62 million.”

Donald Trump and Dennis Muilenburg
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According to Bloomberg, shareholders claimed, “By paying Muilenburg, the Board sidestepped a public spat with him that unavoidably would raise questions about the Board’s culpability in supporting him and not exercising safety oversight.” Hence, both the Board and Muilenburg are clearly at fault for the avoidable deaths of 346 innocent people.

Now, Dennis Muilenburg is the CEO and Chairman of New Vista Acquisition Corporation. That’s right — he was hired, even after this scandal, to lead another aerospace company. The company is considered a SPAC, which, according to Sold/Short, is “a shadowy, speculative instrument designed to bypass the due diligence ostensibly built into the IPO process.”

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is now available to stream on Netflix.

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