Ballmer Time

Microsoft and Its Business Partners are Being ‘Probed’ About Bribery Allegations

Dear oh dear!
(Photo: Microsoft)

(Photo: Microsoft)

Was that a bellow of rage we just heard from the direction of Redmond? The Wall Street Journal reports that the DOJ and SEC are poking around Microsoft as part of an investigation into business partners (like resellers and consultants) who maaaybe secured software contracts by bribing foreign officials.

Well, that would be one way to keep Windows running on every desktop.

Microsoft was quick to throw up its hands and tell the Wall Street Journal “nuh-uh, not us”:

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

This doesn’t mean that Microsoft has been charged with anything yet, or even formally accused. But the feds are following up on a hot tip from a former employee:

The tipster, who worked to land potential new business, alleged that an executive of Microsoft’s China subsidiary instructed the tipster to offer kickbacks to Chinese officials in return for signing off on software contracts.

But sources tell the Journal that Microsoft already had an outside firm investigate the allegations and turned up zilch. The feds are also sniffing around deals in Italy and Romania. So if you’re a Microsoft reseller in an emerging nation, now might be the time to burn all receipts marked “bribe.”

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com