Bribery is a form of corruption that involves giving or receiving something valuable to influence or alter the action of an authority figure, such as a government official or company executive. According to the Legal Information Institute, bribery removes objectivity from the decision making process and decisions are instead based on the interests of people involved in the crime.
Bribes Beyond Money
A common misconception about bribery is that it's limited to the exchange of money, says FindLaw. Actually, a bribe can involve exchanging anything the recipient finds valuable, including vehicles, real estate and jobs. Some bribes are even made for discounts, promises or personal favors. In 2012, Reuters said one of Oracle's senior sales managers was named in a corruption case where she allegedly exchanged sexual favors to help further the firm's business interests.
Who Gets Involved?
Bribery occurs in a variety of professions. Incidents involving government employees tend to be highly publicized because they are considered matters of public interest. For example, a government official may accept a bribe for preferential hiring, access to confidential information or to turn a blind eye to regulatory requirements.
Private parties also engage in bribery. For example, an employee may bribe a client to win a contract, a lawyer may bribe a witness or an unqualified borrower may bribe a loan officer. Sports bribery tends to involve opponents or officials agreeing to the rig the outcome of a competition.
Who are the Victims?
The consequences of bribery often extends far beyond the parties closest to the corrupt transactions. If a person bribes an official for a job, all other potential applicants are victimized. When sports matches are rigged, fans who paid to watch or who made legal bets are cheated. Bribery is also linked to poverty since corrupt transactions between companies and officials often involve robbing communities of resources or permitting operations that damage their livelihoods.
Bribery and the Law
FindLaw tackles some common misconceptions about bribery. For example, it doesn't need to be harmful to public interest to be illegal. And bribery is not always initiated by an offer to influence action. Sometimes people solicit bribes by offering to use their authority to benefit those who are willing to provide the bribes. In either case, both the giver and the recipient can be charged with a crime.
Third parties also get entangled in the criminal web of bribery. In 2011, a Texas City woman admitted helping her boss conduct financial transactions related to military contracting bribes. She was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $360,000 in restitution.
Bribery is so common in some countries it is viewed as a routine business practice, and sometimes individuals conducting business abroad face choices of engaging in transactions that are not considered bribes locally. Many countries, including the United States, have anti-bribery laws that apply to their citizens' overseas transactions. Some argue these regulations are a competitive disadvantage, but that is not a legal defense.
Employers' Handling of Bribery
Employers can be held liable for the corrupt actions of their employees. Though there are laws, companies and government agencies are urged to implement anti-bribery policies that are tailored to their businesses. To stamp out bribery, the South African Labour Guide also encourages employers to sever the employment relationship and bring criminal charges against employees who perpetrate these crimes.
- Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Bribery
- The South African Labour Guide: Taking Bribes a Crime Against the Employer
- Columbia University: The Ethical Aspects of Bribing People in Other Countries
- Reuters: Oracle Employee Named in Singapore Sex-for-favors Case
- KHOU: Woman Convicted in US Military Bribery Case Sentenced to Prison
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images