Bribery is the offer or acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government/public official or employee. Bribes can take the form of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. Other forms of bribes may include property, various goods, privileges, services, and favors.
Bribes are always intended to influence or alter the action of various individuals and go hand in hand with both political and public corruption. No written agreement is necessary to prove the crime of bribery, but a prosecutor generally must show corrupt intent. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting can be charged with bribery.
Examples of bribery include:
- making payments to a county officer’s re-election campaign in exchange for business contracts
- giving a health inspector money or alcohol to ignore a violation
- offering to reward a legislator with an all expenses paid vacation if the legislator votes a certain way
- a judge requesting a job for her child in exchange for ruling a particular way in an upcoming case.
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977 makes it unlawful for a United States citizen, as well as certain foreign issuers of securities, to pay a foreign official in order to obtain business with any person. The FCPA applies to any individual, firm, officer, director, employee or agent of a firm and any stockholder acting on behalf of a firm. Individuals and firms also may be penalized if they order, authorize or assist someone else to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Act or if they conspire to violate those provisions. Since 1998, the FCPA also applies to foreign firms and persons who take any act in furtherance of a corrupt payment while in the United States.
More than half of the states also have laws against commercial (private) bribery. There is no federal law against commercial bribery. Private bribery works the same way, except that instead of bribing a public official, the bribe is given to a private businessperson or employee in order to induce a person to act a certain way in a commercial transaction. For example, if a vendor makes a cash payment to a purchasing officer in order to ensure that the vendor’s bid is chosen over other bids, that would be considered commercial bribery
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