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U.S. probes bribery claims at Microsoft

SEATTLE, March 21 (UPI) — U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp. is the subject of federal investigations into possible bribery and kickback schemes, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have both opened investigations into alleged bribes of kickbacks offered to officials in China, Romania and Italy, The New York Times and the Journal reported Tuesday.

People close to the investigations said a former Microsoft employee has alleged he was instructed by an executive at a Microsoft subsidiary to offer kickbacks to secure software contracts in China.

The whistle-blower informed U.S. officials of the alleged scheme in 2012. In 2010, Microsoft completed its own internal investigation into the matter with help from an outside counsel, which concluded that there was no wrongdoing, the Journal reported.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the SEC declined to comment and Microsoft said it would not comment on an ongoing investigation.

In an online posting that appeared Tuesday, however, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel John Frank said, “We take all allegations brought to our attention seriously and we cooperate fully in any government inquiries.”

“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 said.

Microsoft has about 94,000 full-time employees and approximately 640,000 business partners operating in more than 100 countries.

Companies frequently investigate allegations themselves and can be expected to spend about $2 million to look into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, the Journal said.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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