Microsoft caught up in bribery probe over software sales in Hungary

Microsoft is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission over potential bribery and corruption in its handling of software sales to the Hungarian government, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the report, U.S. authorities are probing potential wrongdoing in a scheme through which Microsoft allegedly sold software to "middleman firms" at large discounts. The firms involved would then sell the software to the Hungarian government at their full prices, allegedly using the difference to bribe government officials.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, David Howard, said that the company quickly engaged in its own investigation after finding out about "potential wrongdoing." The company says that it fired four of its employees in Hungary as a result of its own probe. It also ended relationships with four partner companies in the country last year. "We're committed to ethical business practices and won't compromise these standards," Howard told The Wall Street Journal.

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This investigation follows similar probes Microsoft has faced in recent years over its software sales practices in other countries. In 2013, the company was investigated over potential bribery schemes in China, Romania, Italy, Russia, and Pakistan. It's unclear if Microsoft is still under investigation over dealings in those countries.

Microsoft told The Wall Street Journal that it is cooperating with investigators and it has moved to improve transparency around its discounting practices.