Exploring Bribery: Definition, Dynamics, Types and Prevention Measures

9 mins


In every corner of the globe, from business boardrooms to public offices, the spectre of bribery looms large. It's a malaise that pervades all sectors, undercutting fair competition, corroding trust, and impeding progress. By shedding light on this issue, we can understand the intricacies of bribery, recognize its many forms, learn from past cases, and contribute to efforts in combating this corrosive practice.

Financial institutions must be vigilant against bribery by implementing strong payment screening and robust identity verification.


Key Takeaways

  • Bribery involves the exchange of something of value to influence the actions of those in power, contributing to corruption and distorting systems.
  • Bribery can occur in both the public and private sectors, ranging from small-scale transactions to high-level corruption scandals.
  • Combating bribery requires a strong legal framework, transparency, accountability, and robust ethics and compliance programs.
  • Public sector bribery cases highlight the need for stringent enforcement and the prosecution of high-ranking officials involved in corrupt practices.
  • Emphasizing ethics, promoting transparency, and fostering a culture of integrity are essential in preventing bribery and promoting a fair and equitable society.


Bribery: A Basic Definition 

Bribery involves the giving, offering, receiving, or soliciting of something of value as a means to influence the actions of an individual or organization in a position of power. This illegal act distorts economic, political, and social systems, and is considered a significant form of corruption.

New call-to-action

The Working Mechanics of Bribery

Bribery often hinges on a quid pro quo relationship. A bribe-giver provides something of value to a bribe-taker in return for preferential treatment or illicit advantage.

Offering Bribes 

This is the act of giving or promising to give something of value with the intention of influencing the behaviour of another party to gain an illicit advantage.

Accepting Bribes 

This is the act of receiving or agreeing to receive something of value in exchange for acting or refraining from acting in a certain manner that benefits the bribe-giver.

Different Faces of Bribery 

Public Sector Bribery 

Public sector bribery involves corrupt transactions between individuals or businesses and public officials. This can range from small-scale 'grease payments' to large-scale bribes involving millions of dollars.

Private Sector Bribery 

Private-sector bribery occurs within or between businesses and organizations. This could involve bribing competitors, suppliers, clients, or employees to gain an unfair advantage.

Bribery in the Real World: Notable Instances 

Public Sector Cases 

Public sector bribery has been witnessed at the highest levels of governance. High-ranking officials across the globe have faced accusations and trials, demonstrating the pervasive nature of this form of corruption.

Here are two recent public sector bribery cases:

  • In 2020, Airbus agreed to pay over $3.9 billion in global penalties to resolve foreign bribery and ITAR case. The company admitted to a years-long campaign of corruption around the world, allowing rampant corruption to invade the U.S. system. Airbus falsely reported information about their conduct to the U.S. government for more than five years in order to gain valuable licenses to export U.S. military technology
  • In 2021, a former executive of a financial services company, Asante Berko, was charged by the SEC with orchestrating a bribery scheme to help a client win a government contract to build and operate an electrical power plant in the Republic of Ghana. Berko was found guilty of violating anti-bribery, books and records, and international laws. The company agreed to pay more than $81 million to settle the charges

Private Sector Cases 

Private sector bribery scandals have rocked large multinational corporations, shedding light on corrupt practices distorting free and fair market competition.

Here are two recent private-sector bribery cases

  • In 2019, Walmart Inc. was charged by the SEC with violating the anti-bribery, books and records, and internal accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The charges stemmed from Walmart's failure to operate a sufficient anti-corruption compliance program for over a decade as the company expanded internationally. Walmart agreed to pay over $282 million to settle the charges brought by the SEC and the DOJ.
  • In 2018, Cognizant, a multinational IT services company, faced charges for authorizing $2.5 million in bribe payments to a government official in India. Two former Cognizant officials, Gordon Coburn and Steven E. Schwartz, were charged in connection with the bribery scheme. The case highlighted the importance of preventing corruption in international business transactions.

Combating Bribery: Strategies for Prevention 

Legal Framework 

Strong anti-bribery laws and their stringent enforcement are vital in the fight against bribery. These laws should clearly define and criminalize all forms of bribery and provide for substantial penalties.

Transparency and Accountability 

Organizations must foster a culture of transparency and accountability. Regular audits and clear reporting systems can help detect and deter bribery.

Ethics and Compliance Programs 

Comprehensive ethics and compliance programs play a critical role in preventing bribery. They should provide clear guidelines on acceptable behavior and offer mechanisms for reporting suspected bribery.

New call-to-action

Bribery and Money Laundering

Bribery involves the exchange of something of value to influence the actions of individuals or organizations, while money laundering is the process of making illegally obtained money appear legitimate. Both bribery and money laundering are illegal activities that undermine the integrity of economic, political, and social systems. Combating bribery and money laundering requires strong legal frameworks, effective enforcement, transparency, and international cooperation to prevent and punish these illicit practices.


Bribery, a complex and deeply entrenched issue, undermines social trust and economic progress. However, through comprehensive understanding and strategic countermeasures, it's possible to mitigate its effects. Each of us, from individual citizens to organizations and governments, can play a role in fostering a fair, equitable society that stands firm against the blight of bribery.

Recent Posts