Microsoft taking bribery allegations 'seriously'

A news report says the company is being investigated for bribery in three countries

Microsoft is taking seriously allegations that business partners engaged in bribery to gain government contracts in three countries outside the U.S., the company said Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Microsoft for possible kickbacks made by a Microsoft representative in China, as well as looking into the company's relationship with some resellers and consultants in Italy and Romania.

Microsoft takes "all allegations brought to our attention seriously" and will cooperate fully with any government investigations, John Frank, the company's vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a blog post.

"Like other large companies with operations around the world we sometimes receive allegations about potential misconduct by employees or business partners and we investigate them fully regardless of the source," Frank added. "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."

A DOJ spokesman said the agency has no comment on the existence of any investigations.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft conducted a 2010 investigation of the allegations in China and found no wrongdoing. A whistleblower alleged that an executive of Microsoft's China subsidiary authorized kickbacks to Chinese officials in exchange for software contracts, the Journal reported.

Frank, in his blog post, declined to comment on the specific allegations detailed in the Journal article. But many such investigations find that the allegations are without merit, he added.

"As our company has grown and expanded around the world, one of the things that has been constant has been our commitment to the highest legal and ethical standards wherever we do business," Frank wrote.

Microsoft has more than 50 people who investigate potential breaches of company policy, and an additional 120 people whose primary role is compliance, he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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