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Microsoft reportedly facing bribery probe in Hungary

Probe follows similar investigations in other countries, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Microsoft To Layoff 18,000
Microsoft is reportedly being investigated over software sales in Hungary.
Stephen Brashear / Getty Images

US authorities are investigating Microsoft over potential bribery and corruption in connection with software sales in Hungary, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating how Microsoft sold software such as Word and Excel at steep discounts to an intermediary in Hungary that then sold the products to government agencies in 2013 and 2014 at near full price, the Journal reported, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter.

Investigators are looking into whether the middleman companies used the difference to pay bribes and kickbacks to government officials, according to the report.

"As soon as we became aware in 2014 of potential wrongdoing in our Hungarian subsidiary, we moved quickly to pursue a detailed investigation and hold people accountable," a Microsoft spokesman said. "We fired four employees and terminated our business with four partners, and we've been defending ourselves against legal claims they raised as a result."

This isn't the first time Microsoft has been linked to federal investigations into alleged overseas bribery schemes. In 2013, the Justice Department and SEC were reportedly focused on allegations of kickbacks in China, as well as the company's relationship with resellers and consultants in Romania and Italy.

Bribery allegations are hardly new in technology. Last year, Jay Y. Lee, heir to the family who owns the Samsung conglomerate, was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of bribing South Korea's former president to help him increase his power over the company.

The Justice Department and SEC declined to comment.