Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft and Bribery, Fraud

Money on a dark desk



Summary: A look at some of Microsoft's latest bribes which are not a legal offence and some of the criminal acts of Microsoft and Bill Gates' Corbis

WHEN IT COMES to Microsoft, there ought to be a distinction between "bribery" in the legal sense and "bribery" in the more metaphorical sense. Microsoft does both. Many mainstream publications accused Microsoft of "bribery" or attempted bribery when it decided to simply buy some customers rather than earn any [1, 2, 3]. Having failed to achieve much with this strategy (billions are being lost in the process), Microsoft is rebranding the same efforts and marketing them differently, this time characterising them as "charitable". Yes, it's like charitable bribery. George Orwell would love it!



Well, there's a catch. In order to enable the $3 donation, users must set Bing as their default search engine.


It's self evident. Microsoft is becoming rather scummy. But it's marketed as a "charitable" endeavour, so how dare we criticise it? There are other miserable new attempts to crush Google's cash cow (because Google also competes against Windows and Office, which are Microsoft's cash cows).

“Rather sad when a company has to buy users of Bing and developers for Phone 7, don't you think?”
      --Pamela Jones, Groklaw
According to Microsoft Nick, Microsoft is now offering another type of bribe for potential Windows phones developers. We gave several other examples last month. Groklaw says: "Rather sad when a company has to buy users of Bing and developers for Phone 7, don't you think?" Groklaw also gives this example where Microsoft uses its employees to artificially inflate numbers.

Why can't Microsoft attempt to earn customers and developers without bribing them? It's a rhetorical question actually. How can Microsoft justify laying off more employees this month [1, 2]? Must it give their wages to people whom it tries to lure in?

Now we move on to some more serious charges where "bribery" means bribery in the legal sense. That's where prosecution and jail sentence happen to those who are not affluent enough to bail themselves out (or bribe officials). Last week we wrote about the Bill Gates-owned Corbis scandal [1, 2], which came to light [1, 2] at a time when corruption in Intel and Dell also came to light. Yesterday we wrote about it again [1, 2] (also the day before that), owing to the fact that Dell fraud teaches us something about its attitude towards GNU/Linux. As the SEC put it in its press release:

Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Dell manipulated its accounting over an extended period to project financial results that the company wished it had achieved, but could not. Dell was only able to meet Wall Street targets consistently during this period by breaking the rules. The financial results that public companies communicate to the investing public must reflect reality.”


It seems likely that Microsoft is doing the same thing and a few months ago we wrote about the Pequot case. Coverage about this can be found in:



According to this new report, the SEC does one thing right by giving "$1 million reward for information in Pequot insider trading case":

The money goes to Glen Kaiser and Karen Kaiser of Southbury, Conn. She’s the ex-wife of David Zilkha, a former Microsoft Corp. employee who had accepted a job at Pequot.


The SEC in general has decided to reward whistleblowers, which is the right thing to do.

The soon-to-be-signed financial reform package creates a new whistleblower program with potentially huge cash rewards for individuals who provide information about securities law violations to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


As a reminder, $4 million went to the Microsoft employee who exposed financial fraud inside the company and produced/shared documents as evidence. With the SEC's new rules in place, how long will it take for another person who works for Microsoft to report Microsoft fraud? Microsoft paid its former CFO millions of dollars to keep quiet.

"One strategy that Microsoft has employed in the past is paying for the silence of people and companies. Charles Pancerzewski, formerly Microsoft’s chief auditor, became aware of Microsoft’s practice of carrying earnings from one accounting period into another, known as “managing earnings”. This practice smoothes reported revenue streams, increases share value, and misleads employees and shareholders. In addition to being unethical, it’s also illegal under U.S. Securities Law and violates Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (Fink).

--2002 story about Charles Pancerzewski, Microsoft

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