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Microsoft Faces Bribery Allegations In China, Romania, Italy And More

By Zach White , Mar 19, 2013 05:49 PM EDT
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A really vague post on the Wall Street Journal website cast bribery allegations on Microsoft that seem could bring some major legal action from the Securities and Exchange Commission if they pan out.

The article starts by describing a whistleblower’s complaint of Microsoft employees bribing officials in China to get software licenses through the bureaucracy, but quickly expands across the globe.

Microsoft employees in Romania are accused of being involved in local resellers bribing officials in the Romanian Ministry of Communications to get software deals. Though the accusations are quickly followed by a denouncement from a Ministry spokeswoman who said that the accusations don’t add up for a few reasons –– records not matching up and those officials not being involved with those sorts of deals.

In Italy, the Journal claims federal investigators are looking into whether Microsoft sales consultants had given extravagant gifts to government employees in exchange for contracts.

"Like every large company with operations around the world we sometimes receive allegations about potential misconduct by employees or business partners," John Frank, Microsoft's vice president and deputy general counsel, said. "We cooperate fully in any government inquiries.”

Of the 94,000 international employees mentioned in the article, Microsoft apparently hires 170 of them just to investigate internally such issues and to make sure the company is entirely in compliance with all of the federal laws they are currently being accused of violating.

The article continues by stacking up circumstantial evidence that adds to the plausability of the accusations, including the fact that Microsoft has been focusing more strongly recently on international business, where they have grown four times as quickly in the past year as in the U.S.

But Frank assured the writers that the company is operating completely above board and is willing to do whatever it takes to prove it.

"We take all allegations seriously and investigate them fully regardless of the source," Frank said. "We also invest heavily in proactive training, monitoring and audits to ensure our business operations around the world meet the highest legal and ethical standards."

All of the rumors are attributed to “people familiar with the matter.”

So who are you going to believe? People or Microsoft's lawyer? It’s tricky.

Someone should look into it.

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