The families of victims of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 asked a Texas judge Tuesday to overturn a $2.5-billion settlement between the aircraft manufacturer and the US government.
Under that agreement, Boeing admitted to having committed fraud in exchange for the Department of Justice dropping some of the proceedings against it over the deadly crashes of Lion Air in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines, which killed 346 people total and caused the MAX to be grounded globally for 20 months.
This January 7, 2021 arrangement was the focus of a court hearing Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas.
“They messed up by making the crime fraud rather than manslaughter,” said Catherine Berthet, a French woman who lost her 28-year-old daughter when the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019.
“We believe that the rights of the victims’ families have not been respected,” she told AFP. “We have not been consulted. We ask to be heard.”
The January 2021 agreement included a $500 million compensation fund for victims’ relatives, $1.77 billion in compensation to the airlines and a $243 million criminal fine.
Boeing has admitted that two of its employees had misled a group within the Federal Aviation Authority that was to prepare training for pilots in using Boeing’s new MCAS flight software, which was implicated in both crashes.
“The judge listened carefully and I think had a lot of concerns about how was it that the Justice Department can seal this agreement from the families,” said Paul Cassell, lawyer for the families in the audience.
Relatives of the victims are now hoping for a quick decision from the Fort Worth judge.
“It’s been three years and I never go to sleep before four or five in the morning,” Berthet said. “I still have panic attacks. There are things I don’t do anymore. There are films that I can no longer see, music that I can no longer listen to.”
“I would like to see that the US Department of Justice is responsible enough to make sure that corporations don’t get away with murder,” said Paul Njoroge, who lost his 33-year-old wife, his children aged nine months, four and six, as well as his mother-in-law in the Ethiopia crash.
Asian markets track Wall St rally ahead of jobs data, oil holds gains
Asian equities rose Friday following a strong performance on Wall Street ahead of a key US jobs data release, while crude held most of the previous day’s gains after an output hike disappointed traders.
A below-forecast reading on US private jobs offered some support to New York, even as inflation and interest rate hike concerns remained major headaches.
While observers said the reading from payroll firm ADP was not usually a good guide for the official report, a soft number on Friday could give the Federal Reserve a little room to ease off its rate hike drive and provide a much-needed boost to sentiment.
“Seemingly, anything that keeps the Fed from a more aggressive rate-hiking path appears to be greeted with open arms by equities,” said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.
For now, expectations are for the US central bank to continue tightening monetary policy with half-point hikes at upcoming meetings, while vice chair Lael Brainard warned she did not yet see any reason to take a breather in the third quarter, as some had hoped.
Still, a rally in beaten-down tech firms helped drive healthy gains on Wall Street, and Asia managed to ride on the coattails.
Tokyo rose more than one percent, while Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington and Jakarta were also up, though Manila dipped.
Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei were closed for holidays.
– Oil pressure –
But analysts remain on edge about the near-term outlook owing to uncertainty caused by a range of issues including the Ukraine war and China’s economic travails.
“We believe a slight lean toward defensive sectors and away from the growth-oriented areas of this market still make sense,” said Scott Brown, of LPL Financial.
“Outside of this recent rally, very little about this market has changed from a technical standpoint and that makes us wary of calling the all-clear.”
Hopes that OPEC and other major crude producers could ease pressure on inflation by ramping up output were dealt a blow when they agreed to pump just 50 percent more per month.
The announcement did little to soothe worries about a supply shortage caused by bans on US and UK imports from Russia, and came just as European leaders said they would impose a partial embargo on shipments.
A report showing a steep drop in US stockpiles added to the woes on oil trading floors, with some commentators saying prices could once again spike as China relaxes long-running lockdown measures in major cities.
– Key figures at around 0230 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 27,713.23 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday
Shanghai – Composite: Closed for a holiday
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $117.54 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $116.70 per barrel
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0762 from $1.0753 on Thursday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2581 from $1.2568
Euro/pound: UP at 85.54 pence from 85.49 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 129.80 yen from 129.85 yen
New York – Dow: UP 1.3 percent at 33,248.28 (close)
London – FTSE 100: Closed for a holiday
US sues cryptocurrency exchange run by Winklevoss twins
US regulators on Thursday said they are suing the Gemini Trust cryptocurrency exchange, which is run by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, for giving misleading answers in 2017 about a bitcoin project.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission lawsuit filed in federal court in New York accuses Gemini of not being upfront about how easy it would be to manipulate a bitcoin futures project proposed at the time, the agency said in a statement.
The futures contract launched at the end of 2017 and stopped trading two years later, according to blog posts from Gemini and a partner company
Making false or misleading statements to the commission undermines its work to protect market participants, prevent price manipulation, and promote fair competition, acting director of enforcement Gretchen Lowe said in the statement.
“This enforcement action sends a strong message that the Commission will act to safeguard the integrity of the market oversight process,” Lowe said.
The US agency is seeking financial penalties, the surrender of any ill-gotten gains, and an injunction forbidding Gemini from such behavior in the future, it said.
Gemini defended its record when asked about the suit.
“We have an eight year track-record of asking for permission, not forgiveness, and always doing the right thing,” it told AFP, adding: “We look forward to definitively proving this in court.”
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin Harvard classmates of Mark Zuckerberg, who sued him over claims he stole the idea for Facebook from them, started and run New York-based Gemini.
The brothers told Gemini employees on Thursday that about 10 percent of them were being laid off as staff is trimmed to endure a “crypto winter” likely to persist for a while, according to a copy of the email posted online by the company.
“The crypto revolution is well underway and its impact will continue to be profound, but its trajectory has been anything but gradual or predictable,” the brothers said.
The industry is in a “contraction phase that is settling into a period of stasis — what our industry refers to as ‘crypto winter'” compounded by macroeconomic and geopolitical turmoil, they added.
NFT market sees first insider trading case in US
US authorities have charged a former manager at a digital exchange platform with fraud and money laundering, in what they said was the first insider trading case involving non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
Nathaniel Chastain was working as a product manager at New York-based OpenSea last year when he secretly bought dozens of NFTs that were about to be featured on the platform’s home page, federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
Chastain, 31, went on to sell the NFTs for two to five times the initial price after they got star billing at the OpenSea website, the criminal case against him states.
NFTs are tokens linked to digital images, collectable items, avatars in games or objects in the burgeoning virtual world of the metaverse.
“NFTs might be new, but this type of criminal scheme is not,” US attorney Damian Williams said in a release. “Nathaniel Chastain betrayed OpenSea by using its confidential business information to make money for himself.”
Chastain was arrested in New York on Wednesday on charges of wire fraud and money laundering that each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.
US media reported that he was later released on bail after entering a non-guilty plea.
The arrest was touted by prosecutors as the first-ever insider trading bust involving digital assets.
“With the emergence of any new investment tool, such as blockchain supported non-fungible tokens, there are those who will exploit vulnerabilities for their own gain,” FBI assistant director-in-charge Michael Driscoll said in the release.
Part of Chastain’s job was to pick NFTs to be featured on OpenSea’s homepage, with the choices kept secret because prices typically jumped after they got top billing, the criminal complaint said.
The likes of Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams have boasted about owning NFTs and many under-30s have been enticed to gamble for the chance of making a quick profit.
Prices have fallen and the reputation of the industry has been hammered for much of the year.
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