Bribery is the practice of offering a professional or an authority person money or other favours in order to circumvent ethics or other rules in a variety of situations. It is a form of corruption and is generally illegal, or at least cause for sanctions from one's employer or professional organisation.

For example, a motorist may bribe a police officer not to issue a ticket for speeding, a citizen seeking paperwork or utility line connections may bribe a functionary for faster service, a construction company may bribe a civil servant to award a contract, or a narcotics smuggler may bribe a judge to lessen criminal penalties.

In some cases, the briber holds a powerful role and controls the transaction; in other cases, a bribe may be effectively extracted from the person paying it.

The level of non-monetary favours that constitute an incentive to unethical behaviour is variable and may constitute a matter of opinion in a given field.

In some societies, tipping is looked down as bribery.


Smoothing bureaucracy

A grey area may exist when payments to smooth transactions are made. United States law is particularly strict in limiting the ability of businesses to pay for the awarding of contracts by foreign governments; however, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act contains an exception for "grease payments"; very basically, this allows payments to officials in order to obtain the performance of ministerial acts which they are legally required to do, but may delay in the absence of such payment. In some countries, this practice is the norm, often resulting from a developing nation not having the tax structure to pay civil servants an adequate salary. Nevertheless, most economists regard bribery as a bad thing because it encourages rent seeking behaviour. A state where bribery has become a way of life is a kleptocracy.


In the music industry, the practice of record companies paying money for the broadcast of records on music radio is called payola, but only if the song is presented as being part of the normal day's broadcast. A radio station has always had the ability to play a specific song in exchange for money; however, this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be reported as a "spin". Some radio stations report spins of the newest and most popular songs to industry publications, which are then published. The number of times the songs are played can influence other stations around the country to play or pass on a particular song. On influential stations (and particularly on television) payola can become so commonplace that it becomes difficult for artists to get their records/videos played without offering some sort of payment. The term gets its name as a take-off of the names of some early record-playing machines, such as Victrola.

Alan Freed—a disc jockey and early supporter of rock and roll—saw his career and reputation greatly harmed by a payola scandal. Another early disc jockey who was nearly derailed by the payola scandal was Dick Clark, but he avoided trouble by selling his stake in a record company and cooperating with authorities.

The practice was criticized in the chorus of the Dead Kennedys song "Pull My Strings," a parody of the song "My Sharona."

Currently a different form of payola is used by the record industry through the loophole of being able to pay a third party or independent record promoters ("indies"), who will then go and "promote" those songs to radio stations. Offering the radio stations "promotion payments", the indies get the songs that their clients, record companies, want on the playlists of radio stations arond the country.

Because of this, a very large majority of DJs are cut out of the song-picking decisions and are instead told what to play, and when (for the most part) by music directors and/or "higher ups" at their radio stations.

This new type of payola sidesteps current FCC regulations requiring that, if a song is paid for by the record company, the radio station must state that it was paid for. Using indies allows for the record company to not directly pay the radio station, thus the radio station doesn't have to report it as the FCC regulations mandate.

More information about the current use of payola to influence what is heard on the radio can be found at:


Pharmaceutical corporations may seek to reward doctors for heavy prescription of their drugs through gifts. The American Medical Association has published ethical guidelines for gifts from industry which include the tenet that physicians should not accept gifts if they are given in relation to the physician’s prescribing practices. [1] ( Doubtful cases include grants for travelling to medical conventions that double as tourist trips.

Dentists often receive samples of home dental care products such as toothpaste, which are of negligible value; somewhat ironically, dentists in a television commercial will often state that they get these samples but pay to use the sponsor's product.


In legal situations, lawyers, judges, and others with power may be subject to bribery or payoff for making a decision that benefits someone willing to pay for favours. Operation Greylord revealed that bribery was rampant in the bench and bar community of Chicago in the early 1980s.


Politicians receive campaign contributions and other payoff from powerful corporations when making choices in the interests of those corporations, or in anticipation of favorable policy. See also influence peddling and political corruption.

See also

External links

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