22. What is bribery and other illegal payments (kickbacks)?
Offering, receiving, or soliciting something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of her public or legal duties is illegal in both the domestic and international contexts. Under federal law, this sort of activity is prohibited by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which specifically serves to prevent kickbacks to facilitate business transactions.
• Note: There is an exception under the FCPA that allows payment to individuals to undertake their procedural or routine tasks when such payments are customary in a country.
• Discussion: Do you think businesses should be prevented from paying government officials for official action that helps or favors the business? Should these prohibitions apply outside of the United States as well? Does it change your opinion if the act of paying officials in a particular foreign country is so common that it is expected? Should there be an exception when bidding for contracts against foreign companies that are openly paying officials?
• Practice Question: Sean owns a company and seeks to sell goods to the Brazilian government, specifically the development department. Sean knows that the Brazilian market is difficult to break into for foreigners. Sean, with the purpose of improving his chances of winning the contract, buys very lavish gifts and has them delivered to the home of the director of the development department. Has Sean committed a crime?