A Bill Gates-level Microsoft scandal threatens to shake the software giant, with one Microsoft whistleblower claiming the company gave millions in foreign bribes to expand its user base.
Yasser Elabd, a Microsoft employee who joined the company in 1998 and became a director of emerging markets, published an essay on whistleblower platform Lioness and leveled troubling accusations against Microsoft.
“After paying fines for violations in Hungary and South Africa, Microsoft agreed to stop the practice—but I have evidence that I believe shows they continue to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act elsewhere,” he opens his letter.
As a director of emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa, he says he saw a contractor for the Saudi interior ministry receive a $13 million discount on its software, a discount which never made it back to the end customer. Another incident he describes says that Qatar’s ministry of education paid $9.5 million per year for Windows and Office licenses that were never installed, with the money likely split between the government, subcontractors and Microsoft employees coordinating deals.
When bringing shady deals to his superiors at Microsoft, Yasser Elabd says he was told to look the other way in no uncertain terms.
“I don’t want you to be a blocker. If any of the subsidiaries in the Middle East or Africa are doing something, you have to turn your head and leave it as is. If anything happens, they will pay the price, not you,” the manager reportedly told him, before eventually devolving into shouting and threats.
Yasser Elabd’s whistleblower essay on Microsoft corruption practices is a troubling read.
For their part, Microsoft told The Verge, who contacted them for a reply, that these are old allegations that were addressed.
“We are committed to doing business in a responsible way and always encourage anyone to report anything they see that may violate the law, our policies, or our ethical standards. We believe we’ve previously investigated these allegations, which are many years old, and addressed them. We cooperated with government agencies to resolve any concerns,” Becky Lenaburg, a VP at Microsoft and deputy general counsel for compliance and ethics, told The Verge.
The outlet also provides more examples of recent Microsoft allegations and corruption charges that almost sound like 90s Bill Gates was back at the helm (remember the Microsoft antitrust case?).
Between 2013 and 2015, a Justice Department investigation found a senior executive at Microsoft Hungary part of a bribery scheme.
In another case, the SEC alleged that more than $440,000 in marketing funds were diverted to gifts for employees of the Saudi government. For both of those cases, Microsoft settled with the investigating agencies and paid a combined $25 million. Those are just a few of the cases reported by The Verge, with Yasser Elabd’s account for Lioness outlining even more.
It will be interesting to see what unfolds from Elabd’s allegations, who says he saw reports of Microsoft bribery in other countries like Qatar, Cameroon, and South Africa.