Bribery is a white collar crime in which money, a favor or something else of value is promised to, given to, or taken from an individual or corporation in an attempt to sway his or its views, opinions, or decisions. For example, if an electoral candidate offered bottles of liquor in exchange for votes, it would be considered a bribe, and therefore, a crime.
Types of Bribery
Bribery by/of a Public Official
Any public official (anyone acting on behalf of the United States, such as a senator, witness, or juror) who demands, receives, or accepts a bribe in exchange for orchestrating an illegal change in his duties will be fined not more than three times the value of the incentive and/or imprisoned for no more than 15 years. The public official may also be prohibited from holding any political or government office in the United States.
Bribery by/of a Witness
Conversely, anyone who offers a bribe to a public official will be fined and/or imprisoned for no more than two years.
Any witness who demands, receives, or accepts a bribe in exchange for altered testimony faces a fine of three times the value of the bribe and/or up to 15 years in prison, while anyone who bribes a witness faces a fine and/or up to two years in prison.
Bribery of a Foreign Official
In 1977, The U.S. Congress passed The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which made it illegal for an American corporation to bribe a foreign government official with money or gifts in hopes of landing or maintaining important business contacts. According to the act, all publicly traded companies must keep records of all business transactions—even if the companies do not trade internationally—to ensure that this act is not being violated.
However, in the act, there are loopholes of which many U.S. corporations take advantage. For example, the act permits “grease payments”, which are incentives paid—without penalty—to foreign officials to help expedite the completion of paperwork and to ensure the receipt of licenses or permits.
According to the Bank Bribery Amendments Act of 1985, 1) the solicitation of an employee, director, etc. in any capacity in exchange for business and 2) the acceptance of anything (including meals, entertainment, and accommodations during travel) but a legitimate salary, wages and fees from anyone in connection with the bank’s business are prohibited. If any representative of a bank accepts a bribe, he will be fined three times the value of the incentive, or he will be imprisoned for not more than thirty years. However, if the value of the bribe is less than $1,000, the representative will be fined but sentenced to not more than one year in jail.
If a bank official is offered a bribe, he must disclose all information to the bank so that the situation may be addressed appropriately.
Bribery in Sporting Contests
A sporting official who accepts a bribe in exchange for a promise to “fix” a sporting event is guilty of bribery and may be punished under Title 18 of the United States Code, Sect. 224. For example, if a referee is convicted of “throwing” a major sporting event, he will be fined, imprisoned for up to five years, or both.
Industries Prone to Bribery
Examples of Illegal Bribes/Kickbacks
- A building contractor might kick back part of what he is paid to the government official responsible for selecting his company for the job.
- A pharmaceutical or medical device company might offer free training or other benefits to doctors who prescribe its drug.
- A benefit or pension provider might provide cash or another bonus to brokers who convince companies to choose their services over those of another provider.
Punishments for Bribery
Issuing or accepting bribes is a serious crime that may result in heavy fines or several years in prison. Both civil and criminal charges can be levied against those suspected of being involved in kickback schemes.
The Anti-Kickback Act of 1986 prohibits government contractors and subcontractors from issuing or accepting kickbacks. If a contractor or subcontractor forces an employee to kick back part of his or her compensation, the contractor may face a $5000 fine and/or five years in prison.