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Ballmer Threatens To Pull Out of the US 1142

Posted by Soulskill
from the tax-schmax dept.
theodp writes "Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is threatening to move Microsoft employees offshore if Congress enacts President Obama's plans to curb tax avoidance by US corporations. 'It makes US jobs more expensive,' complained billionaire Ballmer. 'We're better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the US as opposed to keeping them inside the US.' According to 2006 reports, Microsoft transferred $16 billion in assets to secretive Dublin subsidiaries to shave billions off its US tax bill. 'Corporate tax is part of the overall advantage of doing business in Ireland,' acknowledged Ballmer in 2005. 'It would be disingenuous to say otherwise.'"
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Ballmer Threatens To Pull Out of the US

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:22AM (#28232209)

    corporations corporations corporations corporations corporations corporations corporations corporations corporations...

    this line added for postercomment compression filter

  • by NervousNerd (1190935) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:22AM (#28232211) Journal
    And I'm threatening to move to Linux.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @10:44AM (#28232893) Journal
      Actually, put in the mouth in the Obama administration, that could be one hell of a threat.
    • Sweet Irony! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by malevolentjelly (1057140) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @01:05PM (#28234215) Journal

      And I'm threatening to move to Linux.

      Oh man... do you have any idea how outsourced/globalized the Linux market is? Linux as a commercial software product is almost entirely third world off-shored. Microsoft was sort of an outlier in doing so much development here in America.

      Do you really think companies like Lynx or Motorola or Red Hat are doing their work here with American developers? They're not nearly profitable enough. If you want to be principled and supportive of the American business framework, then Linux is basically raping our software economy. Hell, even Solaris is more of an American product, and Sun is pretty globalized, as well.

      I am fairly certain BSD is, as well.

      All I am saying is that the Linux v. Microsoft argument is really really inappropriate here. It doesn't apply on any front. The American Linux development companies did this years ago. It's just a bigger deal when Microsoft does it.

      If you are pro American industry and development that employs Americans and doesn't subvert out tax structure, you should be using Windows or Mac OS X. Seriously.

  • Sure, move out. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Krneki (1192201) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:23AM (#28232217)
    If they go out of US, to who M$ will complain to prevent unlicensed use of Windows?

    EU is much more user oriented then US.
    • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jbolden (176878) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:25AM (#28232235) Homepage

      Exactly what I was going to say. Move your main operation to Ireland and the EU has much much more control over windows. Microsoft is having huge problems with the EU because, well they are actually interested in the public good.

      • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gbjbaanb (229885) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:33AM (#28232293)

        And Dublin, what an excellent idea... just because they used to have good tax breaks for large relocating corporations doesn't mean that will continue. Not when the IMF steps in and tells them how to run their economy after their debts destroy it; even Dell has pulled out of Ireland and is moving from Limerick to Poland.

        Perhaps if MS was under the jurisdiction of the EU, they'll do what the DoJ should have done and will break it up into several MiniSofts.

    • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:31AM (#28232281)

      Or, how will US government (e.g. its military) view the idea of using a 'foreign' OS?
      It would not surprise me if such a move would hasten a 'turning away from windows' trend in US government.
      And if the US government is anything like the EU on this, the consequence would be that other businesses would start migrating away from windows as well...
      I am no consultant with Mircrosoft, but if I were, I would advise against it... The strength of the Microsoft brandname is largely due to its US connection. Cut it, and it might very well dwindle overnight?

      • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Narpak (961733) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:44AM (#28232369)

        Or, how will US government (e.g. its military) view the idea of using a 'foreign' OS?

        Well I know that the Norwegian Military (particularly parts of the intelligence operations) decided that they would no longer trust or use Windows some years back.

        • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by GooberToo (74388) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:07AM (#28233121)

          Well I know that the Norwegian Military (particularly parts of the intelligence operations) decided that they would no longer trust or use Windows some years back.

          That's likely because they either were not bribed or simply did not accept said bribe. Remember, in the US, MS' OS were put in place despite explicit regulations disallowing its use. Which is to say, it was not on the approve OS list for use which means it should have never been deployed. Yet somehow it magically happened. Endless factual accounts consistently proved every time this type thing happens, its because large bribes have been paid. If it were not for such bribery, its very unlikely MS would ever be in any system other than desktop and unclassified server systems.

          One could even argue MS has taken the first step is destroying national security in the US. Hell, they've managed to take destroyers out of commission.

        • by BigGerman (541312) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:18PM (#28233855)
          all five of them?
    • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:40AM (#28232335)

      One better. If MSFT pulls out of the USA they lose the influence they have with US patent law isn't the same as the EU, and the EU will kick MSFT to the curb several times over.

      While they retain those patents in the USA, they are worthless in the EU.

      So I say go MSFT and let the door hit you on the way out.

    • Re:Sure, move out. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Narpak (961733) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:50AM (#28232423)

      If they go out of US, to who M$ will complain to prevent unlicensed use of Windows?

      It's SO unfair that people pirate our products! We made those products and we deserve our cut damn it!
      It's SO unfair that we have to like obey our nations tax laws!
      Yeah lets go after those that break the laws we like and lets use all our lawyers and accountants to avoid the laws we don't like.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:25AM (#28232233) Homepage

    Too bad Ballmer's father didn't pull out.

    -

  • by Aurisor (932566) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:25AM (#28232239) Homepage

    Don't tease me like that unless you really mean it.

    • Re:Oh come on Steve (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bughunter (10093) <bughunter AT earthlink DOT net> on Saturday June 06, 2009 @02:53PM (#28235111) Journal

      That's exactly what some people said to folks like Alec Baldwin eight years ago when they threatened to leave the country because they didn't agree with the politics of new leadership (iow, "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out").

      But then those comments were accompanied by accusations of treason and worse... now that it's a corporation instead of a liberal, let's see if Ballmer receives the same treatment as Baldwin.

  • Shit (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:27AM (#28232247)
    I live in Ireland. Should I be worried about flying chairs now?
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:27AM (#28232249) Homepage

    It's just like moving rack mounted servers offshore. Just box them, ship them, and install in the new offices.

  • Bonus Fact (Score:4, Funny)

    by qpawn (1507885) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:28AM (#28232253)

    It's my assumption that while making the threat he was sweating profusely.

  • Like Delaware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:29AM (#28232259)

    I don't believe Ballmer has the ballmers to move the whole company out of the U.S., much less trade his life in the Emerald City for the Emerald Isle.

    But I do believe he has a point about seeking out the lowest cost of business, and if it comes down to it, I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft move all accounts receivabo to a tax haven and just keep cost centers in the U.S.

    Take a look at what they've already done. They have already set up development centers in low labor cost countries like India and China. Moving more of those jobs out of the U.S. would just be a natural progression in the quest for lower costs. The worst part of this is that as time goes by the developers in those up and coming countries are getting just as good as their American counterparts. At some point we're looking at a hiring crisis here in America.

    We're facing a 16 year educational depression as the currently undereducated kids gets graduates and makes way for a new generation educated satisfactorily. Naturally, this begs the question, but I think Obama is the guy to make the right changes to the DOE.

    • Re:Like Delaware (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GooberToo (74388) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:17AM (#28233245)

      Take a look at what they've already done. They have already set up development centers in low labor cost countries like India and China. Moving more of those jobs out of the U.S. would just be a natural progression in the quest for lower costs. The worst part of this is that as time goes by the developers in those up and coming countries are getting just as good as their American counterparts. At some point we're looking at a hiring crisis here in America.

      But that was under Bush's administration. Bush decided that no technology worker would be paid a fair salary (now competing with outsourced labor prices and illegal H1Bs) or receive overtime. Obama has said he will incur fees for outsourcing and tax breaks for those how don't. Should MS continue to do this, and Obama does anything he said he would (thus far he's mostly followed McCain's plan, or very closely so), MS will pay one way or another.

      As a side note, has Obama actually done anything he said he would do? Has Obama done anything that McCain didn't say he would do? Has Obama given any speeches where he didn't steal from Bush?

  • And as a reward... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rkhalloran (136467) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:30AM (#28232265) Homepage

    While it is a requirement of a corporation to maximize the shareholders' value, Ballmer is simply grandstanding and expecting the government to roll over for MS' benefit. The current administration is much less submissive to corporate political desires.

    The Administration should VERY publicly call them out and recommend government offices immediately develop a schedule for converting as much of the IT infrastructure as possible away from MS software.

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @10:03AM (#28232527) Homepage Journal

      While I agree with the rest of this statement, the crap like "it is a requirement of a corporation to maximize the shareholders...." blah blah blah need to be RETIRED. Repeating this corporate dogma garbage just strengthens the hand of blowhards like Ballmer.

      It is NOT HAPPENING in the U.S... it's all about doing what's best for the corporate elite at the very top. Even if you accept the "corporations work for the betterment of the shareholders" argument for a second you then need to take into account that the biggest shareholders by far are the Board members and CEOs at the top anyway and they are STILL just working in their own best interest.

      • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:50PM (#28234115) Homepage Journal

        the crap like "it is a requirement of a corporation to maximize the shareholders...." blah blah blah need to be RETIRED. Repeating this corporate dogma garbage just strengthens the hand of blowhards like Ballmer.

        Actually, the problem is that it's codified into law. The primary fiduciary responsibilities for a company's offices are to maximize shareholder value. If they take things other than cost into consideration ( such as the environment, etc ), then they are breaking the law.

        That's what needs to change. Either update it, or get rid of it. But it is causing the problem.

  • Not very bright... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dpilot (134227) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:30AM (#28232267) Homepage Journal

    First off, it just isn't a very good idea to start going tit-for-tat with the US government. That's especially true for a convicted monopolist, not to mention the fact that the previous administration essentially cancelled anything so severe as even a wrist-slap.

    That judgement could be re-examined.

    Second, that's just a really patriotic, really American thing to do. Or does it mean that patriotism is defined one way for corporations and their heads, and another way for "merely working Americans"? For one of the most profitable corporations in US history to in all essence say, "I don't want to pay my fair share, I'm taking the rest of the American jobs overseas," is a real slap in the face. It's also not as if this is meant to be a tax increase, it's meant to be eliminating a tax shelter. For you and me, using such a tax shelter would be cheating, avoiding doing our fair share.

    Third, I'm sure "Vista for the US Army" isn't a done deal. Also don't forget, Linus Torvalds is a US resident, and I'm sure *he* pays his income taxes, as do the various US-residing RedHat, Novell, etc, employees.

    • by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:45AM (#28232381)

      First off, it just isn't a very good idea to start going tit-for-tat with the US government.

      No duh. If it happened (or started to happen), I'd see three possibilities:

      1. U.S. Federal Government switches to Apple (Still US company)
      2. U.S. Fed Govt switches to an NSA version of Linux
      3. And most likely: U.S. Fed Govt declares "National Security" and "Eminent Domain" (or the business equivalent), and prevent MS from moving because MS Windows is used in top levels of Government, warships, nuclear power plants...
    • by sadler121 (735320) <msadler@gmail.com> on Saturday June 06, 2009 @10:12AM (#28232617) Homepage

      Seeing that the US is one of the few countries that have Software Patents, Ballmer might want to reconsider. Currently the EU does not have Software Patents, and hopefully never will. Seeing that Microsoft's strategy lately is to patent everything and spread FUD about Linux infringing on it's patent portfolio, threating to move the company outside of the US would mean there would be less of an incentive for the US to maintain it's position on Software Patents.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:30AM (#28232271) Homepage Journal

    That sounds great. I suggest moving them about 100 miles offshore, and then dropping them. It should make a satisfying splash sound. Then comes the thrashing, and the drowning, and the bubbles.

    On a more serious note, just how many employees do they think are going to pick up and leave Washington for Ireland? Was this their plan all along? I guess the climates are compatible...

    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:41AM (#28232347) Homepage Journal

      On a more serious note, just how many employees do they think are going to pick up and leave Washington for Ireland? Was this their plan all along? I guess the climates are compatible...

      IBM did it. They started laying a bunch of people off, and while they were on their way out the door, they 'suggested' that they apply to IBM India. Some employees took them up on it.

      Remember that 'giant sucking sound' Ross Perot was talking about back in the 90s? Everyone was laughing at him them, but look who's laughing now.

  • No Surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khan (19367) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:30AM (#28232275)

    Greed.....just as old as prostitution, war and slavery.

    Personally, I'm surprised MS hasn't moved out already. Not to mention plenty of other greedy corporations like the one that I work for. More and more, I'm beginning to think that it's time to get out of IT. The "bottom line" is all these fuckers truly care about. All I know is that karma will eventually catch up to them.

  • On pulling out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:35AM (#28232309) Homepage

    Microsoft: exploits loopholes in law to avoid paying corporate taxes.
    People: exploit loopholes in Windows activation to avoid paying for a license.

  • Pure FUD. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:40AM (#28232337)

    The sad thing is that this is all Microsoft has become. Microsoft won't leave the US. For one thing there's a lot more to running a business than a freaking tax shelter. This is just another instance of Balmer blowing smoke. It's really a large portion of how he tries to exert influence.

    I think Balmer is going to soon learn this is simply NOT the time to start drawing lines in the sand between greedy corporations and everyone else. Public opinion of Microsoft DOES matter, and painting your corporation as a bunch of dickweeds that'll just up and leave over some legislation is just idiotic.

  • by kylben (1008989) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:45AM (#28232383) Homepage
    Pull out, already, Steve. America's asshole is sore enough.

    On the other hand, Steve himself is a good candidate for the title "America's Asshole". I'm all for anyone with financial clout standing up to Obama and congress, but the enemy of my enemy is not automatically my friend.

  • by timepilot (116247) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:47AM (#28232401)

    Steve, please do it. And better still, please keep telling everyone you're going to do it. You know what, how about starting a blog and telling everyone exactly how you think the American public and the world at large should make life better for the M$ shareholders.

    Please, we want to know.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:52AM (#28232433) Homepage
    MS will never do it. American is their biggest friendliest market. Just look at the 360, outside of the US, it's pretty much a non-event and part of me think's America's love for MS has to do with patriotism.

    MS does not have the balls to piss off their largest group of consumers and if they did, the government and turn around and start using a Linux distro developed by Americans (they should be doing this anyway) and MS will not go for that. They'd lose far more than they would by Obama fixing the tax loopholes.

    So he can make empty threats all he wants. The gov should just tell him to fuck off to Ireland.
  • by molukki (980837) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @09:52AM (#28232435) Homepage
    Sounds familiar. Nokia threatened to leave Finland unless they get the right to spy on their employees. The law (named "Lex Nokia" by the media) was passed on March 11th and became effective beginning this month.
  • To begin with, none of the executive team wants to live in any of those countries with super low labor availability. Sure, Western Europe, the UK -- you'll get lots of takers among management and plenty of good managers over there already. Try moving all those lifestyle employees living in the Seattle suburbs to India, Pakistan, Indonesia, or China, and you'll see a very different result.

    So, now we're talking about really threatening to move the teams of "developers, developers, developers, developers" off shore. Companies that have tried this before have found that much to their shock, "developers, developers, developers, developers" are not bought and sold as commodities by the pound, but in fact are individuals who have creative ways to solve problems and work best when they can interact with the decision makers to improve the product.

    The truth is, only the lowest tier of developer "meat" can be moved easily off-shore and away from the management and executive teams where decisions and management happen. If you ignore that, you get crappy product. You get crappy product because the offshore teams give you EXACTLY what you ask them for, instead of working with you to understand the goal and produce a result that makes more sense.

    In summation: "FSCK-OFF" Balmer.

  • good riddance (Score:4, Informative)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:19PM (#28233863)

    Microsoft's workforce is tiny, Windows licensing is a huge drain on the economy, they keep importing foreign workers, and they are very good at avoiding taxes. So, good riddance, the US economy would likely be better off without Microsoft.

    Unfortunately, Ballmer knows full well that the regulatory climate in Europe is much less favorable to Microsoft than the US, so he won't follow through on his threat.

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