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Sun may have broken bribery laws

Sun discloses a potential breach of US anti-bribery law and reveals a shareholder lawsuit over its Oracle takeover
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Sun Microsystems has revealed it may have broken US anti-corruption laws in an overseas operation. The company says the matter is now under review by US government agencies.

In a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday, Sun said it had identified potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which forbids people or companies from bribing foreign officials to influence their actions and decisions.

"During fiscal year 2009, we identified activities in a certain foreign country that may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)," Sun said in the filing. "We initiated an independent investigation with the assistance of outside counsel and took remedial action."

The California-based server and software maker said it had informed the SEC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) about the potential violation, and that these agencies are now looking into the matter. The company has also alerted the relevant government agencies in certain foreign countries, it said.

Sun said it is cooperating with the DOJ and SEC reviews. Under the FCPA, it faces a corporate fine of up to $2m (£1.3m), and a fine of up to $100,000 or a jail term of up for five years for guilty employees and directors. In addition, it could be barred from doing business with the US federal government, an outcome that could have a "material effect" on Sun's business, the company said in its filing.

In the same SEC filing, Sun disclosed that shareholders have brought three separate class-action lawsuits against the company, its soon-to-be parent company Oracle, and "certain of [Sun's] officers and directors". The suits, filed on 20 April and 30 April in Santa Clara County Superior Court, are aimed at stopping Oracle's $7.4bn acquisition of Sun and allege a breach of fiduciary duty.

"The complaints generally allege that the consideration offered in the proposed transaction is unfair and inadequate," Sun said in the filing. "Sun and the other defendants have not yet responded to the complaints."

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