FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors are apparently investigating whether Oracle violated anti-bribery laws in its interactions with certain African countries, reported The Wall Street Journal Aug. 31.
The WSJ cited anonymous sources for information about the year-long investigation, which has focused on Oracle employees possibly making improper payments related to closing software sales. The unnamed countries in question are located in Western and Central Africa. Investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are also apparently probing the matter.
An Oracle spokesperson declined a request for comment from eWEEK.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 makes it illegal for certain persons and entities to "make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business."
Every so often, a tech company will find itself in federal cross-hairs for allegedly violating the act. Earlier this year, the SEC sued IBM for allegedly bribing officials in South Korea and China from 1998 through 2009. IBM agreed to settle the action, reportedly by paying millions in penalties.
In 2010, Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay $137 million in fines related to allegations that it paid bribes in Costa Rica, Taiwan and Kenya.
News of the Oracle investigation leaked on a big day for the Justice Department. On Aug. 31, the agency filed an antitrust lawsuit to prevent the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, a division of Deutsche Telekom. The proposed $39 billion merger would have reduced the major carriers in the United States to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, something the latter had protested vigorously in the media and other venues.
"The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for mobile wireless services," Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote in a prepared statement.
Sprint's own statement on the matter seemed mildly elated: "The DOJ today delivered a decisive victory for consumers, competition and our country. By filing suit to block AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile, the DOJ has put consumers' interests first."
Overall, it seems as if Justice is investigating the tech world on multiple fronts. In addition to dealing with a possible government probe, Oracle faces substantial competition from the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Salesforce and Microsoft.