Lawmakers lash Boeing head for making millions in wake of deadly 737 Max crashes (October 30, 2019)

Melissa Quinn
October 30, 2019

Lawmakers confronted Boeing’s chief executive Wednesday over taking his hefty salary in the wake of two deadly crashes of the planemaker’s 737 Max, in which 346 passengers perished.

Democrats on the House Transportation Committee fiercely questioned CEO Dennis Muilenberg of the consequences he and the planemaker have faced in the wake of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines incidents, which occurred over a five-month span.

“You said you’re accountable. What does accountability mean? Are you taking a cut in pay? Are you working for free from now on until you can cure this problem?” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, asked Muilenburg. “These people’s relatives are not coming back. They're gone. Your salary is still on. Is anybody at Boeing taking a cut or working for free to try to rectify this problem?”

Present in the hearing room during Muilenburg’s testimony were the family members of the crash victims, who met with the Boeing chief on Tuesday.

Muilenburg, who raked in $30 million last year, said Boeing’s board of directors sets his pay.

“It’s not about the money for me,” he said.

But Muilenburg’s response did not satisfy Cohen and other members of the panel.

“You’re continuing to work and make $30 million a year after this horrific two accidents that caused all these people’s relatively to go, to disappear, to die. You’re not taking a cut in pay at all?” Cohen pressed, adding Muilenburg was not taking accountability for the crashes.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, who chairs the Transportation Committee, and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, also condemned the Boeing head for a $15 million bonus he received following the Lion Air crash in October 2018.

“You’re no longer an Iowa farm boy. You are CEO of the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world,” DeFazio said. “You're earning a heck of a lot of money, and so far, the consequence to you has been, oh, you’re not chairman of the board anymore.”

DeFazio said Boeing’s efforts to hold people accountable have been woefully inadequate.

“I haven’t seen convincingly that there have been consequences except one guy got fired and the chief leader of the 737 program retired in disgust,” the Oregon Democrat said.

Muilenburg appeared before the committee Wednesday to answer questions about the issues with the 737 Max that led to the crashes and what steps Boeing is taking to ensure the planes are safe to fly again.

The 737 Max has been grounded since mid-March, and it’s unclear when the fleet will be cleared to fly again.