A bribe is a remuneration for the performance of an act that’s inconsistent with the work contract or the nature of the work one has been hired to perform. The remuneration can be money, gifts, entertainment, or preferential treatment.
Business gifts and entertainment of clients and business associates are a familiar part of the business world. Still, both practices can raise conflict-of-interest problems and even border on bribery, but knowing where to draw the line is not always easy. One thing is clear: those who cross that line, wittingly or not, can end up in big trouble.
For people in the business world, the rules are not so cut and dried, but a number of considerations can help one determine the act of giving and receiving gifts in a business situation. It is important to ask; is the gift of nominal value, or is it substantial enough to influence a business decision? What are the circumstances under which the gift was given or received? Whether the gift was given or received openly or secretly should also be considered. Is the person in a position to affect materially a business decision on behalf of the giver? Another important point is whether the recipients have made it abundantly clear to the donors that they don’t intend to allow the gift to influence their action one way or the other. Is this the customary way to conducting this kind if business? Monetary gift and tips are standard practice in numerous service industries. What is the company’s policy? Many forms explicitly forbid the practice of giving and receiving gifts to maximize even the suspicion that a conflict many exist. What is the law? When gift transaction violate the law, they are clearly unacceptable.
Related to gift giving is the practice of entertaining. Companies can distinguish entertainment from gift as follows: if you can eat or drink it on the spot, it’s entertainment. In general, entertainment should be interpreted more sympathetically than gifts, because it usually occurs within the context of doing business in a social situation. Still, the morality of entertainment should be evaluated along the same lines as gifts -that is, with respect to value, purpose, circumstances, position and sensitivity to influence of the recipient, accepted business practice, company policy, and the law. In each case the ultimate judgement hinges largely on whether an objective part could reasonably suspect that the gift or entertainment might lead the recipient to sacrifice the interest of the firm for his or her personal gain.