Updated on April 2, 2024
Article byShrestha Ghosal
Edited byShrestha Ghosal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Bribery Definition

Bribery is an illegal act where an individual offers money or something valuable to a public official or an entity in exchange for a favor. This act is committed with the intention to buy or influence the decision of a person who is in a position of power.


You are free to use this image on your website, templates, etc, Please provide us with an attribution linkHow to Provide Attribution?Article Link to be Hyperlinked
For eg:
Source: Bribery (wallstreetmojo.com)

This act is usually committed to escape a legally complicated situation or to evade any legal consequences for an action. It is considered an unethical and immoral act that is subject to legal action. Most countries prohibit the act of demanding, offering, accepting, seeking, or receiving bribes.

Key Takeaways

  • Bribery is the act of giving a public official money or other valuable objects in exchange for a service or to influence a decision.
  • They are frequently committed with the intent to avoid a legal problem or the adverse effects of a conduct.
  • These actions are deemed unethical and illegal. The various types of bribery cases are of or by a public official, banks, and legal witnesses.
  • Demanding or receiving bribes does not have to be executed to be considered a crime. The mere act of initiating the process can be considered to be illegal.

Bribery Explained

Bribery is a criminal conduct that occurs when an individual provides money or something valuable to a public official or an institution in return for a benefit. This type of behavior is carried out to purchase or manipulate the decision-making process of someone who is in a position of authority.

It aims to prevent a lawfully challenging situation or to dodge any potential legal consequences for a course of action. It is regarded as illicit and immoral behavior that can lead to legal repercussions. Most countries criminalize the act of requesting, offering, accepting, seeking, or receiving bribes. Furthermore, the act of demanding or receiving bribes does not need to be completed to qualify as a crime. The initiation of the process alone is considered a criminal offense.


The types of bribery are:

  1. By or of a public official: This occurs when a public official demands, accepts or receives money in exchange for influencing a change in their official duties. Moreover, the individual who offers the bribe is also considered a criminal in such a scenario.
  2. By or of a witness: If an individual is found to be offering bribes to a witness in a legal case in exchange for altering their statement, they are considered guilty of this crime. If the witness also demands money or other valuable items and promises to favor the individual in return, they are considered guilty.
  3. In banks: This is one of the most common types of bribery. If employees from banks or other financial institutions receive, demand, or accept money to get a service done, they are considered to be guilty. Bribing in such a case may include monetary benefits, any valuable items or gifts, free meals or travels, and any such offering in exchange for some favor.


Let us study the following examples to understand this act:

Example #1

Suppose Amy is a banker whom a specific customer has approached to approve a business loan. The customer does not have a reliable financial history and is not eligible for the loan. He does not pass the minimum requirements established by the bank for being granted the funds. The customer offered to pay Amy 5% of the loan amount if she approved him for accessing the loan. Amy reported this to the management, and the customer was blacklisted from the bank. This is a bribery example.

Example #2

United States authorities are permitted to prosecute foreign officials who demand or receive bribes from Americans intending to secure business. , A new authorization has been granted recently passed in annual defense legislation. For the first time, an element of the National Defence Authorization Act establishes it as a criminal offense for a foreign representative to demand or accept a bribe from an American individual, a U.S. firm, or someone within U.S. jurisdiction. President Biden signed this defense measure into law in December 2023.

How To Prevent?

Some ways to prevent this include the following:

  • Implementing an anti-bribery policy in an organization helps prevent this act. If the organization sets up a clear policy that establishes strict rules and penalties against this act, the employees are more likely to abide by them.
  • Every member of the organization, including the founders, board of directors (BOD), managers, supervisors, and all employees, must make it clear that this act is discouraged in the workplace. The management may organize regular presentations and seminars, send memos, or put up posters and notices that may help remind the individuals of this rule.
  • The employees must be made aware of all the acts that can count as bribery in business. The organization must conduct meetings, training programs, and other awareness programs that would help employees understand more about this act and its consequences.
  • The management must be aware enough to recognize the signs of bribery in business and when it is occurring. They must regularly conduct checkups to ensure that the employees are following the rules. In case of any misconduct, the management must take appropriate action to ensure that the individuals who are found guilty are suitably punished for their actions. The punishment will also act as an example that other employees will follow, which will prevent such misconduct in the future.

Bribery vs Extortion vs Gift

The differences between the three are as follows:


  • Bribery cases are the acts of offering a public official money or other valuable items in exchange for a service or to influence a decision.
  • They are often committed to escape a legal situation or face the consequences of an action.
  • These acts are regarded as unethical and illegal.


  • Extortion involves threatening an individual and forcing them to give money or perform an act for them. It usually involves the exchange of money but may also include other demands.
  • This is an illegal act that intends to harm the individual who has demanded money or a specific service. Criminal extortion generally includes the use of force or threat of force to obtain something.
  • Some common types of extortion include blackmailing and asking for ransoms.


  • A gift is when an individual gives a public official something that has no relation to his work. The official does not need to provide anything in exchange for the individual offering the gift.
  • Gift-giving is a lawful act if it is not done with the intent to get any service done by the official or to have a decision influenced in their favor in return.
  • Offering a gift to a public official may become an act of legal concern if the intent behind the gift is not clear or if there is any hidden agenda behind the act. In such a scenario, it can become a risky practice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between bribery and corruption?

Corruption is an illegal behavior by an individual who is in a position of power. It includes various unlawful acts such as fraud, embezzlement, nepotism, abuse of power, and conspiracy. However, bribery is a form of corruption that involves the exchange of a thing of value to influence decisions.

Is bribery a felony?

This crime is usually considered a felony. If an official is offered or promised money or other valuable things in exchange for an act of corruption, the act does not need to be accomplished to be considered a crime.

Is bribery a white-collar crime?

This illegal act becomes a white-collared crime if it involves a public official. It includes circumstances where an individual tries to influence the decision of someone in a public office in exchange for money or other valuable items. It also includes situations where the official demands money in exchange for a specific action.

Why is lobbying not considered bribery?

Lobbying involves organizing a group of like-minded individuals or entities to influence an authoritative body. Bribery is the attempt to purchase power, while lobbying is an attempt to influence power.

This article has been a guide to Bribery and its meaning. Here, we explain its examples, types, differences with extortion and gift, and how to prevent it. You may also find some useful articles here –

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *