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Lead Boeing Prosecutor Joins Boeing Corporate Criminal Defense Firm Kirkland & Ellis

Earlier this year, when the Justice Department brought its criminal case against Boeing in connection with the crash of the two Boeing 737 MAX airliners that killed 346 people, federal prosecutors brought the case in federal court in Ft. Worth, Texas. 

Erin Nealy Cox
Kirkland & Ellis

Ft. Worth, Texas has no connection to Boeing or to the victims. 

The case was brought by the then U.S. Attorney in the northern district of Texas — Erin Nealy Cox. 

And the case was settled with a deferred prosecution agreement — an agreement that Columbia Law Professor John Coffee at the time called — “one of the worst deferred prosecution agreements I have seen.”

Boeing did not have to plead guilty to any of the allegations.

No Boeing executive was charged.

And the Boeing deferred prosecution agreement included an unusual provision finding that a compliance monitor was not necessary because “the misconduct was neither pervasive across the organization, nor undertaken by a large number of employees, nor facilitated by senior mismanagement.”

How did Cox and the federal prosecutors know that? 

Did they question senior management? 

“That is without precedent,” Coffee told Corporate Crime Reporter earlier this year. “I have not seen that anywhere else and I’ve looked at a number of deferred prosecution agreements. Prosecutors themselves are not conducting the investigation.” 

Boeing’s lead corporate criminal defense law firm is Kirkland & Ellis.

Cox, the lead prosecutor in the Boeing case, left the Justice Department earlier this year.

And last month she joined Kirkland & Ellis as a partner in its Dallas office.

Kirkland & Ellis partner Mark Filip, who led the Boeing criminal defense team and signed the Boeing deferred prosecution agreement on behalf of the company, welcomed Cox last month to Kirkland and Ellis. 

“There never seemed to be an adequate, or even a plausible reason for why this case was brought in Texas when Boeing had no connection whatsoever with that state,” Coffee told Corporate Crime Reporter in response to Kirkland & Ellis hiring of Cox. “Now, the U.S. Attorney’s joining the defense counsel’s law firm suggests that they were both on the same wavelength about finding a quick and gentle resolution of the case that did not embarrass or injure Boeing. I cannot say that this was unlawful or even unethical on the available evidence, but this is not how an adversarial system of justice normally works or should work. This is a very friendly system of criminal justice for large corporations.”

Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron lost their 24-year-old daughter Samya Stumo in the Ethiopian crash.

“We were outraged that the Department of Justice prosecutors cut a sweetheart deal with Boeing which let (former Boeing CEO) Dennis Muilenberg and the Boeing executives and board members off the hook for their criminal negligence and fraud which caused the death of Samya while they enriched themselves,” Stumo and Milleron said in a statement in response to the news. “We were confused about why the Northern District of Texas was chosen by the Justice Department given that none of the criminal behavior had anything to do with that district. Was it a compliant judge that Boeing favored? Was it compliant prosecutors that knew Boeing’s criminal defense team? This is shocking new information.”

Paul Hudson of the consumer group Flyers Rights said the case “is an example of the revolving door where thousands of ex-government employees go to work for parties they regulated as government officers.” 

“But  the revolving door is not supposed to be a conveyor belt,” Hudson told Corporate Crime Reporter.

“If a chief federal prosecutor joins a criminal defendant party or its defense firm shortly  after representing the US government in a related criminal matter, it raises both appearance concerns and ethical issues,” Hudson said.

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