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Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

  • "A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm, to conduct a thorough investigation," per the statement. Notably, Microsoft refused to say what the finding of the investigation found.
  • "Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern," the statement added.
  • The New York Times reports that Melinda Gates expressed concern about his relationship with convicted sex offender Epstein and other questionable behavior long before they announced they were divorcing.
  • This included his "handling of a previously undisclosed sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager" in 2018, according to the Times.
  • The Daily Beast reports that Epstein advised Gates on how to end his "toxic" marriage as he used the disgraced late financier's $77 million New York townhouse as an escape.

Of note: Sources close to Gates have called claims that he had any personal conversations with Epstein in meetings about philanthropy — whether about his marriage or anything else — "simply not true."

What they're saying: A spokesperson for Gates reiterated their statement to the NYT that it's "extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances and the timeline of Bill Gates’ divorce."

  • It called the Times' characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others "inaccurate."
  • The spokesperson for Gates said any claim that he "spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false," the statement continued.
"The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false. The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’ divorce are becoming increasingly absurd and it's unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as 'sources.'"

Go deeper

Epstein accuser files lawsuit alleging Prince Andrew raped her

Britain's Prince Andrew arriving for a church service at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Hillington, Norfolk, eastern England, in January 2020. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP via Getty Images

Virginia Giuffre, one of Jeffrey Epstein's longtime accusers, filed a lawsuit in New York against Prince Andrew on Monday alleging that the British royal sexually abused and raped her when she was 17 years old.

Driving the news: Giuffre alleges in the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, that the sexual abuse happened on three occasions nearly two decades ago after she was "lent out for sexual purpose" to the prince. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.