Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal fraud charge related to the tragic crashes of the 737 Max planes, according to the Justice Department. This comes after U.S. prosecutors accused the company of violating a previous settlement that protected it from prosecution.

As part of the agreement, Boeing will pay a fine of $243.6 million and will have an independent compliance monitor oversee its operations for three years. Additionally, the company must invest at least $455 million in compliance and safety programs. The plea deal is still pending approval from a federal judge.

In a significant move, Boeing has agreed to meet with the families of the crash victims. This decision comes as the company faces the choice of accepting a guilty plea and its consequences, or going to trial. The guilty plea could have far-reaching implications for Boeing, potentially affecting its ability to do business with the U.S. government.

The Justice Department previously accused Boeing of misleading regulators about a flight-control system on the 737 Max, which was later found to be a factor in the crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights. The crashes claimed the lives of 346 people in total.

Family members of the victims have expressed concerns about the plea deal, with some calling it a “sweetheart deal.” They are pushing for a public trial to ensure that all the facts surrounding the case are brought to light.

This development comes at a critical time for Boeing, as the company works to address its manufacturing and safety issues, appoint a new CEO, and finalize its acquisition of Spirit AeroSystems. The outcome of this case could have lasting implications for the aerospace giant, particularly in its dealings with the U.S. government.

It remains to be seen how this guilty plea will impact Boeing’s reputation and future business prospects. The company will need to navigate these challenges carefully as it works to regain trust and confidence in the wake of these tragic events.