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Employees of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned as early as seven years ago that Boeing Co. had too much sway over safety approvals of new aircraft, prompting an investigation by Department of Transportation auditors who confirmed the agency hadn’t done enough to “hold Boeing accountable.”

The 2012 investigation also found that discord over Boeing’s treatment had created a “negative work environment” among Federal Aviation Administration employees who approve new and modified aircraft designs, with many of them saying they’d faced retaliation for speaking up. Their concerns predated the 737 Max development.

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