The key elements of personal values and moral character can be vital to the success of an organization (Lawrence & Webber, 2014). A major area where personal values and moral character are constantly being tested is bribery. Bribery is “a questionable or unjust payment often to a government official to ensure or facilitate a business transaction” (Lawrence & Webber, 2014, p.105). In order to address bribery with its own companies on an international scale, the United States enacted the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Satangelo, Stein, & Jacobs, 2007). “In recent years, US law enforcement authorities have stepped up their enforcement of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, imposing record criminal fines and civil penalties” (Satangelo, et al., 2007, para 2). This paper will take a brief look at the frequency and wide reach that bribery has gained in the business world, and conclude with how bribery impacts the biblical idea of the covenant relationship.
Frequency of Bribery
One area of the world where bribery is accepted and practiced frequently is Asia. One survey reveals “54% of Asian firms regularly pay bribes to public officials. Only 17% of firms have never paid any bribe” (Wu, 2009, p. 80). Companies in the United States have complained that they were at a disadvantage to foreign companies because U. S. Companies faced heavy fines for bribery that their foreign competitors did not have to worry about (Mckinney & Moore, 2008). However, even though U.S. companies rendered the complaints, it did not mean that all U.S. companies were innocent of bribery. “The Department of Justice reportedly took forty-eight enforcement actions under the FCPA in 2010, up from two in 2004” (Crook, 2011, p.582).
The Global Reach of Bribery
“Bribery is found in nearly every sector of the global marketplace” (Lawrence & Webber, 2014, p.105). Lawrence and Webber also point out that bribery is most often found in countries where the per capita income is very low (2014). Bribery is also very common in Russia. A PricewaterhouseCoopers study said, “Russia is the worst country in the world for companies in terms of employee theft and extortion by officials” (Lawrence & Webber, 2014, p.106). Lawrence & Webber also give some insight to the Australian perspective regarding bribery by showing that 9 out of 10 people thought bribery was wrong but unavoidable (p. 106). The following quote gives an example of how wide spread bribery was in the U.S. “In the mid-1970’s, over 400 American companies admitted making questionable or illegal payments in excess of $300 million to foreign government officials, politicians and political parties” (Razzano & Nelson, 2008, para.2) Due to the broad reach of bribery, the World Trade Organization is engaging in efforts to fight bribery and demand transparency of its members regarding their procurement practices (Salbu, 1997). The research shows that bribery is a cross-cultural problem that exists wherever human beings conduct business.
Bribery can be viewed as a violation of the biblical idea of covenant. Dr. Fischer describes covenant in the following way. “The Biblical idea of covenant, where members of the covenant commit not just to performing certain obligations for other members, but to love those people as well—to seek to build relationships with them” (Fischer, 2011, para. 19). Scripture speaks about the true definition of love. The Bible says that love, “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6, King James Version). Taking a bribe or asking a business partner to take a bribe would cause the business partnership to engage in evil, sinful, and selfish activities that go against the biblical definition of love.
Crook, J. R. (2011). U.S. justice department and securities and exchange commission intensify anti-bribery enforcement. The American Journal of International Law, 105(3), 582-586.
Fischer, K. BMAL 560 Audio Lecture Series: Ethics& Corporate Responsibility Basics [PointCaste Presentation].
Lawrence, A., Weber, J. (2014). Business and Society. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York, New York.
Mckinney, J. A., & Moore, C. W. (2008). International bribery: Does a written code of ethics make a difference in perceptions of business professionals. Journal of Business Ethics, 79(1-2), 103-111. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9395-3
Razzano, F. C., & Nelson, T. P. (2008). The expanding criminalization of transnational bribery: Global prosecution necessitates global compliance. The International Lawyer, 42(4), 1259-1286.
Salbu, S. R. (1997). Bribery in the global market: A critical analysis of the foreign corrupt practices act. Washington and Lee Law Review, 54(1), 229-287.
Santangelo, B., Stein, G., & Jacobs, M. (2007). The foreign corrupt practices act: Recent cases and enforcement trends. The Journal of Investment Compliance, 8(3), 31-55. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/15285810710824071
Wu, X. (2009). Determinants of bribery in asian firms: Evidence from the world business environment survey. Journal of Business Ethics, 87(1), 75-88. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-008-9871-4