When a congressional committee was preparing to publicly interview the CEOs of four tech giants in 2020, Microsoft President of the company Brad Smith, whose employer was not in the hot seat, gave lawmakers a private briefing. When Australia proposed legislation to force Facebook and Google to pay for news articles, Mr. Smith approved it and offered Microsoft’s Bing as an alternative. When the United States considered similar legislation, he traveled to Washington to testify before Congress to show his support.
Mr. Smith, a Microsoft veteran of nearly 30 years and chairman for seven years, has propelled his company to an enviable position in a regulatory environment increasingly hostile to tech titans. Once an antitrust pariah itself, Microsoft is now widely regarded by regulators as the friendly party among today’s top tech companies, a status of government officials and Microsoft insiders that stems in large part from the culture of friends of Mr. Smith in Washington.