Intel may be wondering what it started when it adopted the slogan ‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ for a new advertising campaign.
It was not very long before Europe’s Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, made the crack that Intel was ‘Sponsor of the European Taxpayer’ after the EU imposed its €1bn fine on the company for alleged anti-trust violations.
Intel’s CEO didn’t see the funny side of it. “I don’t think it’s a joking matter,” said Paul Otellini.
Now it’s the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) getting in on the sponsor saga. In a letter to Intel, the SEC writes:
“We are aware of a May 2008 news report that PCs in Cuba contain your Celeron processors. Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism, and are subject to U.S. economic sanctions and export controls.”
“Please describe to us the nature and extent of any past, current, and anticipated contacts with the referenced countries, whether through distributors, resellers, licensees, or other direct or indirect arrangements,” asks the SEC.
“Describe any products or technology you have provided to the referenced countries, directly or indirectly, and any agreements, commercial arrangements, or other contacts you have had with the governments of those countries or entities controlled by those governments,” continues the SEC.
Now, of course, the Cuban Celerons could have come from anywhere. The odd thing is that all this has come into the open just as the US competition authorities are looking at bringing proceedings against Intel under anti-monopoly laws.
Both the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Attorney-General of New YorkState have investigations underway.
The FTC and the Attorney-General will have the evidence accumulated by Korea, Japan, and Europe when they found Intel guilty of anti-trust violations.
The new US President has indicated he’s keener on enforcing anti-trust law than his predecessor.
This is a bad time for any company to fall out with the US government, and particularly bad if it can be smeared with links, however tenuous or insubstantial, to ‘state sponsors of terrorism.’