c0lo writes "U.S. federal authorities are examining Microsoft's involvement with companies and individuals that allegedly paid bribes to overseas government officials in exchange for business. The United States Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have both opened preliminary investigations into the bribery allegations involving Microsoft in China, Italy and Romania. The China allegations were first shared with United States officials last year by an unnamed whistle-blower who had worked with Microsoft in the country, according to the person briefed on the inquiry. The whistle-blower said that a Microsoft official in China directed the whistle-blower to pay bribes to government officials to win business deals. U.S. government investigators are also reviewing whether Microsoft had a role in allegations that resellers offered bribes to secure software deals with Romania's Ministry of Communications. In Italy, Microsoft's dealings with consultants that specialize in customer-loyalty programs are under scrutiny, with allegations that Microsoft's Italian unit used such consultants as vehicles for lavishing gifts and trips on Italian procurement officials in exchange for government business. In a blog post Tuesday afternoon, John Frank, a vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft, said the company could not comment about continuing investigations. Mr. Frank said it was not uncommon for such government reviews to find that the claims were without merit. Somehow, given the way OOXML became a standard, it wouldn't surprise me if it were an actual fire that caused this smoke."