Microsoft accused of being connected to $200 million in bribes each year

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What you need to know

  • Former Microsoft employee Yasser Elabd alleged that Microsoft is connected to bribes in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Elabd shared his experience on Lioness, a platform for whistleblowers.
  • In his post, he accused Microsoft of being linked to $200 million in bribes each year.

Former Microsoft employee Yasser Elabd has released allegations against Microsoft, asserting that the tech giant was connected to hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in the Middle East and Africa. Elabd worked at Microsoft for 20 years, starting in 1998. At one point, his role with Microsoft was director of public sector and emerging markets for the Middle East and Africa.

The former Microsoft employee claimed that in certain regions, as many as half of the company's salespeople and managers were involved with bribes in some capacity. Elabd estimated that Microsoft is connected to over $200 million in bribes in year in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

In his post on whistleblowing platform Lioness, Elabd recounted a $40,000 spending request that raised his suspicions. He stated that the customer receiving the payment was not on Microsoft's internal database of potential clients and that they were underqualified for the scope of the project connected to the payment. Additionally, the client was with Microsoft only four months earlier, allegedly terminated for poor performance, which should have precluded them from doing business with the company, according to Elabd.

Elabd said that he elevated the incident to his manager, human resources, and the company's legal department. The $40,000 was stopped but the incident was not looked into any further.

In Elabd's post, he alleged Microsoft's connection to the bribes and shared specific examples of seemingly questionable behavior. Discounts of more than $5.5 million were not passed to end customers in deals with two government agencies, according to Elabd. An audit report shared by Elabd shows a deal with the Saudi Ministry of the Interior in which a $13.6 million discount did not reach customers, with said savings instead going to Microsoft employees and the partners involved in the scheme.

In a separate incident, the Qatar ministry of education allegedly paid $9.5 million each year for Office and Windows licenses, but the associated programs were never installed.

"It's going on at all levels," said Yasser Elabd in an interview with The Verge. "All the executives are aware of it, and they're promoting the bad people. If you're doing the right thing, they won't promote you."

The Verge reached out to Microsoft for comment. The tech giant emphasized its commitment to ethical practices to the outlet.

"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," said VP at Microsoft and deputy general counsel for compliance and ethics Becky Lenaburg to The Verge. "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."

In contrast to Microsoft's claim that the incidents in question were in the past and dealt with, Elabd stated that a manager told him to turn a blind eye to certain situations.

"I don't want you to be a blocker," a manager supposedly said to Elabd. "You have to turn your head and leave it as is."

According to Elabd, his reputation for asking questions earned criticism and led to managers and leaders leaving him out of important deals. Eventually, he was fired by Microsoft.

"They never took any legal action against these employees, even while they know they are stealing the company's money and the governments' money," said Elabd. "The hidden message to employees is 'do whatever you want, make as much money as you can, and the worst that can happen is you'll get fired.'"

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

19 Comments
  • so who is bribing whom? or is it both ways? They are paying bribes and/or being bribed? if they are being bribed, for what? There's a serious lack of reporting detail here.
  • The report indicates money is flowing in all directions, and there's an explicitly referenced $40,000 spend (attempt) by Microsoft up above. Spend, i.e., paying. The original report is ambiguous when it comes to the broader direction of the deals.
  • WHAT? A self-righteous giant corporation has used bribery and other less savoury business tactics in tendentially corrupt countries to get advantages? I'M SHOCKED!
  • Like Bill Gates spending 300+ million on funding newspaper articles for his woke propaganda whilst having extra marital helpings (allegedly) himself. Yes shocked. Not.
  • Yea, I much prefer the non-woke people that run around grabbing girls by the… Seriously, get over yourself. Bill Gates has done more positive for the world already today than you will do in your lifetime. And cheating certainly isn’t anything to do with political leanings. Your post is pretty weak man. On every level.
  • bribes... it's called lobbying
  • Funny enough, Satya Nadella has thoughts on that exact comment of yours.
  • That's the cost of doing business some places. Yes, even today. Sometimes you have a choice. Do business as is customary, or don't do business. If you are going to insist on the high moral ground, there aren't many places in the world you could feel completely comfortable doing business.
  • And it sounds like partners and various other people were getting their cut. I’m not sure that’s bribery. And no one expects to be able to fire a real whistleblower in this day and age and get away with it. So I find this guys claims tenuous at best. That said, I’m sure some people skim a little off the top. And to other points, lobbying and dinners and parties and all of that.
  • It's the "Former" in Microsoft Employee, "told him", "promote".. makes it all tinfoil-hatty. The report lacks a lot.
  • Yeah, I'm sure he collected millions in comission above his base or bribes from companies who he dealt with in his 20 years at MS. hind site is 20-20 and since he's gone his hands are clean enough to talk about the dirt allegedly on other people's hands 🤣. The real sad part about this alligation is how some people jump in these forums acting as if this isnt routine in 99% of companies around the world.
  • Elab's claims, as explained here, don't seem to make sense. He's effectively claiming that Microsoft was fine with its employees keeping money they were given as bribes. There is no reason any company would be OK with its own people accepting bribes -- regardless of the ethics, that would be against the company's financial interests. A company might support or turn a blind-eye to PAYING bribes in some regions by its own regional sales leaders in order to win more business (e.g., bribes paid to some government contract reviewer to win the contract and the associated sales revenue). That would be unscrupulous and unethical, but it could help its own bottom line, so it's at least conceivable. But no company would ever tolerate its people ACCEPTING bribes, meaning they are effectively working for someone else to do things against the employer's interests. To be clear, that is the only reason they're would be bribed, because otherwise no one would need to pay them -- the bribe is paying them to do something they wouldn't otherwise do. And, he would also have us believe that Microsoft Corporation was so focused on supporting it's people accepting bribes that they fired him for trying to protect the company's financing by reporting this? What company would do that? Neither an ethical company nor a crime family would punish someone in the organization for trying to report a thief stealing from the employer. Maybe there are key facts missing, but based on what's presented in this article, it sounds like Elabd must be lying on at least some pieces of this, and is perhaps too ignorant on business processes to understand the obviousness of his lie. Given that he's a "whistleblower" AFTER he was fired, and not before (which really means he's not a whistleblower, because he's not putting his job with MS at risk), I'd say the most likely explanation is that this is just a poorly conceived revenge attack by a disgruntled fired employee.
  • You're spot on especially since he's not receiving the many kick backs I'm sure he was getting for giving away products to customers for cash like the former Apple employee currently beind indited for these same this. He might want to shut his trap before MS launches an investiagation against him and find some abnormalities they can go after him for. https://943wsc.iheart.com/content/2022-03-20-former-employee-accused-of-...
  • You're right, that stuff doesn't add up. It's possible this is him coming out swinging before he himself gets called into court by MS. That being said, I would find it hard to believe that Microsoft employees in some regions were NOT bribing governments and companies for contracts. (Remember that hotel deal in India? What the hell was that about??) And any company would want to keep a lid on nefarious stuff even if that stuff were costing it money. Embarrassing news also costs money.
  • Andrew, totally agree. Many companies have people that, either by direction or by going rogue, make bribes to boost their sales. One of the regulations I support (thinking of our disagreements :-) in other discussions), is the policy that American companies are not allowed to bribe governments in other countries, even if that's the cultural norm there. The problem with Elabd's claims (at least per this article, I've done no outside research on what he actually said), is that he also claims that Microsoft turned a blind eye or even protected its people ACCEPTING bribes, which makes no sense. No company would ever want it's people to accept money from outsiders, because, at best, that means those people have divided loyalties. At worst, it means they're actively betraying and working against the interests of their employer.
  • Honestly toy guys are blaming the company for what corrupt sales people do in every industry to fatten the own pockets by greeting sales to increase their own sales commissions above their base pay. This is the case with all companies. I just read an article last week about a former Apple employee being sued by Apple for 10 million. It's sad that people would do this. Honestly, it's not jobs that are bad, it's people who make the job bad.
    https://943wsc.iheart.com/content/2022-03-20-former-employee-accused-of-...
  • Welcome to every large tech company in existence.... Shocking news /s
  • Bribes = lobbying. Happens literally every single day in our country. This is a big nothing burger.
  • I hear you and understand the connection you're making, but that's not really fair to equate them. Lobbying is spending money to pay for people to stand in and present arguments to legislators, maybe take them out to dinner and provide some legally acceptable gifts (this is admittedly getting into a gray area and probably the reason for the connection you're making). In any case, the goal is to persuade with an understanding that the gifts and arguments may not persuade. Bribes are payments made directly to those working for the government, more frequently to gatekeepers, permit issuers, etc., than to legislators, to actually cause them to change their behavior as a condition of getting the payment. A bit like the difference between a boxer getting paid to fight and a boxer getting paid to throw the fight. One is OK, the other is not. Not a perfect analogy.