Baidu accuses former executive of corruption

Search giant has accused a former executive of corruption and handed the case over to the police, the company said on Tuesday.

Why it matters: An increasing number of Chinese firms have launched anti-graft initiatives that mimic the Chinese state’s approach to dealing with misconduct.

  • Since 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping has led a far-reaching campaign against corruption, targeting members of the government and corporate figures.
  • Apart from Baidu, companies including lifestyle services giant Meituan, dronemaker DJI, e-commerce company JD, and ride-hailing firm Didi have sought to weed out corruption.

Details: Baidu’s Professional Ethics Committee said Fang Wei, a former vice-president at the company, is suspected of corruption following an internal investigation and has been handed over to the police.

  • Wei served as a director of finance at the company until he was promoted to vice president of finance in 2018. He has also held supervisory roles at more than a dozen Baidu companies.
  • Baidu’s ethics committee did provide details about Wei’s alleged offenses.
  • The company said it will crack down on any behavior that violates the law or infringes upon professional ethics.
  • Baidu dismissed 14 employees in August that were allegedly involved in 12 cases of internal corruption. The company accused those involved of bribery, infringing on trade secrets, fabricating expenses for reimbursements.
  • Like most companies, Baidu has stepped up its anti-graft campaign in recent years. The search giant set up its ethics committee in 2011 and has since investigated more than 100 employees.

Context: Anti-corruption campaigns are common among China’s tech companies but some take more drastic steps than others.

  • E-commerce giant JD.com sent some of its employees on prison tours to view firsthand the cost of corruption. These tours are common in state-owned enterprises or financial institutions, not tech companies.
  • Meanwhile, drone-maker DJI said last year that it was investigating 45 employees for graft, adding that the company could lose up to $150 million as a result of internal fraud.
  • E-commerce giant Alibaba, smartphone maker Xiaomi, gaming and social media giant Tencent, and telecommunications firm Huawei have all launched similar campaigns.

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