Bribery doesn’t have a concrete, agreed definition. However, it is globally recognised as giving a reward or ‘knockback’ to a person in an attempt to sway opinions or behaviours, strictly for personal advantages. Transparency International’s definition, as included in their Business Principles for Countering Bribery, states that bribing a person involves “an inducement to do something which is dishonest, illegal, or a breach of trust, in the conduct of an enterprises’ business”.
Bribing is a criminal offence for both the perpetrator and receiver, both of which can be charged under the Bribery Act of 2010. It can occur in many settings including public institutions, private organisations and high levels of government.
What is Considered Bribery?
Transparency International defines two types: active and passive. Active simply refers to the act of giving a bribe, and passive is the act of receiving one. Until the Bribery Act 2010 came into force in June 2011, only active misconduct was covered in UK law specifically regarding public foreign officials. As a result, both of these offences are now illegal.
The Act established clear definitions for three types of crimes, including offering and receiving bribes, influencing public foreign officials and failing to incorporate effective policies in businesses to prevent misconduct. It was also used as a model for the later 2017 Criminal Finances Act as many of the same procedures can be used to prevent financial corruption.
Misconduct of this kind often involves large financial transactions using cash, depending on the situation. However, bribes can take the form of any kind of item that has value including tickets to certain sporting or entertainment events, favours, promotions and tips. It counts as misconduct as long as it influences the behaviour of someone and provides an unfair business advantage. This means that overly lavish hotel accommodation purchased for guests or business partners visiting the UK can also count as wrongdoing, as it can be viewed as a gesture that can sway behaviour and especially opinions of this company. Providing hospitality for guests is, of course, legal and not necessarily considered a bribe, so long as it serves a purpose and is appropriate for the needs of the client.
Examples and Case Studies of Bribes in Businesses
Active bribing examples include:
- Bribing a member of staff of higher authority in order to gain a pay rise
- Offering incentives to public foreign officials in order to speed up negotiations and gain a business advantage by awarding contracts faster
- Wanting to cover-up an employee or business mistake by offering gifts
In addition, passive bribing can take the form of any of the following:
- A senior member of staff requesting a bribe in order to recruit someone improperly
- A bank or security employee accept a gift and gives the briber access to someone’s private details
- Any case of a member of staff accepting a bribe and allowing criminal activities such as theft to occur
If organisations or individuals are found guilty of any of these charges, they can be ordered to pay a heavy or unlimited fine, or in some cases face imprisonment.
Tesco PLC was ordered to pay a total of £129 million in addition to £3 million in investigating costs after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) found evidence of illegal activity that boosted the organisation’s sales numbers, covered up by dodgy payments.
IKEA was found guilty of a £1.3 million bribing case in 2007, where employees set-up organisations that would supply goods to the organisation. Sales numbers and turnover was prevented from being published because of corrupt transactions between members of the organisation and two IKEA executives.