In an unconventional move, Boeing has offered $100 million to the hundreds of families who lost loved ones in the two 737 Max jetliner crashes. The money, which would be committed over several years, will go toward “education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, community programs and economic development in impacted communities,” according to a statement by Boeing. As a refresher, one Boeing 737 crashed in Indonesia in November 2018, while another crashed in Ethiopia in March of 2019. While the money may bring some comfort to those affected by the crashes, it may come with unforeseen challenges for the families who receive it.
An unexpected payment of a substantial amount can be dangerous for anyone, but particularly so for people in third-world countries. Just $50,000 in American dollars equates to $1,442,225 in Ethiopian Birr. There are fewer confidentiality and privacy regulations to keep a person’s banking information confidential. Ransom, kidnapping, and even death threats can be a reality for newly wealthy people in countries that are largely poor. Combined with higher crime and robbery — which is often higher due to lack of funding for police and basic safety in communities — and families could find themselves in danger.
We encountered some of these concerns when working in Tanzania in the summer of 2017, where we consulted with victims of the US Embassy Bombing who were receiving settlement funds. Being able to meet with families directly, and working with local translators, authorities and leaders, helped us to prepare Tanzanian families for their incoming funds and any concerns that might come with it.
A sudden boost in wealth for a family could be life-changing. Families of the 737 Max victims should welcome this effort by Boeing, but should also take time and precautions to properly plan for their futures before the arrival of their financial recovery in order to ensure they are as successful and safe as possible.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).