Saturday, May 21, 2022

Amazon probes its lawyers for allegedly bribing Indian government officials


Global ecommerce giant Amazon has initiated an investigation against its legal representatives for allegedly bribing Indian government officials. Rahul Sundaram, senior corporate counsel at Amazon, has reportedly been sent on leave in this matter.

The development was first reported by The Morning Context quoting anonymous sources within the company and Amazon’s in-house legal team. The publication had also reached out to Sundaram for comments, who said “Sorry I cannot speak with the press.”

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Meanwhile, an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider, “We have zero tolerance for corruption. We take allegations of improper actions seriously, investigate them fully, and take appropriate action. We are not commenting on specific allegations or the status of any investigation at this time.”

The development comes after a whistleblower complained that Amazon’s legal representatives had used money paid to them by Amazon to bribe Indian officials.

A person aware of the development, on the condition of anonymity, told The Morning Context that American companies like Amazon take such whistleblower complaints seriously as it is against the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.

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The FCPA law in the US prohibits companies and individuals from paying bribes to foreign government officials in order to retain or obtain business. This is also a part of corporate governance rules for all public companies in the US.

The whistleblower’s complaint also names an independent advocate in New Delhi, who works with Amazon as an outside counsel for hire. The complaint alleges that the said lawyer was the one funneling money paid by Amazon to bribe Indian government officials. As per The Morning Context’s sources, Amazon was one of the biggest clients for the lawyer, with an annual billing of ₹20 crore.

As a general practice, companies of this scale and size employ legal firms on a retainer basis to look into legal matters. In India, Amazon works with few legal firms, including AZB & Partners. AZB & Partners too laid off a junior counsel in this regard, as per The Morning Context’s sources. Business Insider could not independently verify this claim.

Business Insider has reached out to AZB & Partners, seeking clarification in this regard.

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Amazon is anyway not in the good books of the Indian government over the last couple of years, now we just have to see how the central government reacts to such complaints as it tightens the noose around the ecommerce giant.

There have been several complaints and media reports against Amazon, alleging business malpractices, un-competitive behaviour and tiptoeing around policies. The government of India has taken cognisance of these allegations and launched the latest ecommerce policies to lay a framework for companies like Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart etc.

Even the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are currently investigating Amazon on the allegations raised by lobby groups and media reports.


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