Part 1: To bribe or not to bribe?

To pay a bribe or not to pay a bribe? Is that really a question? Today I will expand on an important issue that I began in my February 1, 2015 blog, Ethics and integrity in cross cultural business. In it I referred to a rather lengthy document on the subject of ethics and integrity in cross cultural business.

This is now the first blog on the issue of paying of bribes.  Many people would like to make this a rather simple question with a simple answer; however we need to be “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”  It is not always simple and oftentimes we need to understand the culture and learn new and creative ways to accomplish the desired end goal without violating any of these principles.

What is a bribe?

Some definitions are general and simplistic such as “…something valuable (such as money) that is given in order to get someone to do something.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of bribe.) John Noonan, a former federal judge,  defines a bribe as “an inducement improperly influencing the performance of a public function meant to be gratuitously exercised.” (A History of Bribery).  The legal dictionary sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School, defines it as “corrupt solicitation, acceptance, or transfer of value in exchange for official action.” (Wex legal dictionary definition of bribery.)

Consider a “starter kit” of important questions to ask

The questions below rely on the Noonan definition which demands an understanding of what is proper and thus “improper”.  You can study this more thoroughly in Noonan’s writings but the following questions will help us as business owners to determine the propriety of our proposed action.

  1. Will the decision negatively impact my testimony and the Gospel?  What we believe, say and do must be consistent and correlated.
  2. Will the decision violate the moral authority and principles of the Bible? Biblical morality is rooted in the holiness, justice and love of God.
  3. Will the decision violate a law?  In “rule of law” societies the law is the moral floor, providing minimal standards.  US laws such as the FCPA must be carefully studied.
  4. Could I proudly tell anyone about the decision? We must have nothing to hide and we must feel comfortable in case the decision is broadcast in the media.
  5. Can I put this decision to the same rigor as a financial analysis or auditing standards?  Consider writing down your ethical standards and use them in a regular monitoring of them.

The answers to these questions are discovered in the context of:

  • Biblical culture and the law of God.
  • Our own culture and its laws and norms.
  • The host culture where we are doing business.

The Business as Mission and its BAM Review and The BAM Think Tank are excellent Business As Mission resource websites which contain numerous illustrations and guidelines from business leaders in the BAM sector. Here are several articles related to today’s topic that you may find useful:

Business as Mission and The BAM Review:

The BAM Think Tank:

Come back next week for Part 2 of To bribe or not to bribe? I will focus even more specifically on bribery and provide even more questions to ask ourselves.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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