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Microsoft supports government bribery probe

Microsoft

By Reuters

Posted on 20 Mar 2013 at 09:14

Microsoft has backed an investigation into allegations of bribery by its employees in China, Romania and Italy.

The software giant's comments came after the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had launched investigations over tips from a former Microsoft employee that the company handed kickbacks to foreign government officials in return for software contracts.

"The matters raised in the Wall Street Journal are important, and it is appropriate that both Microsoft and the government review them," wrote John Frank, the company's deputy general counsel, in a blog post on the company's website.

"We take all allegations brought to our attention seriously and we cooperate fully in any government inquiries," he added, without confirming that the software company was aware of any investigation. Microsoft's own compliance department will also investigate the allegations.

The SEC declined immediate comment. A Justice Department spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

Investigations of potential violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are fairly common among US companies. IBM agreed in 2011 to pay $10 million to resolve SEC charges over improper gifts to government officials in South Korea and China, but is still waiting for a judge to sign off on the deal.

The DOJ and SEC brought 23 FCPA cases last year, down from 48 in 2011 and 74 in 2010, according to statistics compiled by the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

The China allegations spring from information passed by a former Microsoft employee to US investigators last year, according to the Journal report, which cited an unnamed source it said was familiar with the matter. Microsoft hired outside lawyers to conduct a 10-month internal investigation which found no wrongdoing, the report said, citing unnamed people briefed on the investigation.

The Journal said the investigations are in the early stages and the government has not accused any party of wrongdoing.

Microsoft declined to talk about specifics of any inquiries, but in his blog post Frank offered what he called "perspective".

"In a company of our size, allegations of this nature will be made from time to time. It is also possible there will sometimes be individual employees or business partners who violate our policies and break the law. In a community of 98,000 people and 640,000 partners, it isn't possible to say there will never be wrongdoing," wrote Frank.

"Our responsibility is to take steps to train our employees, and to build systems to prevent and detect violations, and when we receive allegations, to investigate them fully and take appropriate action. We take that responsibility seriously."

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User comments

Surprised?

That is how business is done in certain parts of the world. Always has been.

Okay, it was banned in the UK in the late 70s or early 80s, but kickbacks have been a part of business for years.

A friend's father used to run a company car fleet. He got a free Nova for buying a certain number of cars for his fleet.

The only surprise is that they were paying the government in Italy, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more...

By big_D on 20 Mar 2013

@big_D

',,, it was banned in the UK in the late 70s or early 80s...'

Unless you work for MI6.

By synaptic_fire on 20 Mar 2013

@synaptic_fire

"Unless you work for MI6"

Could you elaborate a bit more. please.

Beware of unexpected scrutiny from the tax people.

By technogeist on 9 Apr 2013

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