San Francisco: In a startling revelation, a whistleblower has alleged widespread bribery via Microsoft’s foreign contract business, saying that more than $200 million each year is spent on bribes and kickbacks linked to the tech giant, often in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Yasser Elabd, recruited by Microsoft in 1998 who helped bring the company’s products throughout the Middle East and Africa for the next 20 years, said that Microsoft is using illegal bribes and kickbacks in the Middle East and Africa.
As director of emerging markets for the Middle East and Africa, he was successful and received many promotions.
“But eventually, I noticed something strange: many employees younger than me, in lower positions, were driving luxury cars and purchasing homes sometimes worth millions of dollars. For my part, I could not afford to buy a home, let alone anything else luxurious, despite my career success,” he wrote in an essay published by the whistleblower platform Lioness late on Friday.
“I wondered, naively, whether these colleagues had families with money — but if so, why would they be working on a Microsoft sales team?”
Elabd said that in 2016, a request came through in the amount of $40,000 to accelerate closing a deal in one African country.
“When I looked through the submission, I immediately knew something was wrong. The customer did not appear in Microsoft’s internal database of potential clients,” he wrote.
“He had been terminated four months earlier for poor performance on the sales team, and corporate policy prohibits former employees from working as partners for six months from their departure without special approval,” said Elabd.
The whistleblower escalated the issue to the senior management and the legal and HR teams put a stop to the $40,000 spend, “but to my surprise, did not look deeper into the Microsoft employees who were orchestrating the fake deal”.
Elabd said he even wrote an email to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and an HR executive, and a vice president of the company “immediately got back in touch with me, to say that by escalating the matter to Nadella, I had just ‘booked a one-way ticket out of Microsoft’.”
Eventually, Microsoft put him on a “performance improvement plan”, even though he was one of the highest performers on the team.
He also brought the reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SE) but “he’s seen little action from the agency”.
In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft said the company is committed to doing business in a responsible way and “always encourages 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,” said Becky Lenaburg, a VP at Microsoft and deputy general counsel for compliance and ethics.
Elabd said he is not the only person at Microsoft who has alleged corrupt practices.
“I know of five others from various departments who were terminated or pushed to resign for raising flags about inconsistencies in finances,” he alleged.
“In my estimation, a minimum of $200 million each year goes to Microsoft employees, partners, and government employees,” said Elabd.