The Legal and Ethical Consequences of Bribery in Business


Bribery is a pervasive issue in the business world that can have devastating legal and ethical implications. Understanding why bribery is so common, what it entails, and how it can endanger a business is essential. This article will provide an overview of the prevalence of bribery in the business world as well as discuss its legal and ethical implications. Through understanding this phenomenon, businesses can work to prevent bribes and save themselves from hefty penalties that come with engaging in bribery.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) 

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a federal law in the United States that prohibits individuals and companies from bribing public officials in foreign countries. The FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions make it unlawful to offer or provide anything of value to a foreign government official or political party to obtain or retain business. The FCPA also requires corporations to keep accurate books and records and maintain adequate internal controls. 

The primary purpose of the FCPA is to prevent bribery and corruption in international business transactions. It promotes transparency, accountability, and fairness by ensuring that businesses cannot gain an unfair advantage through underhanded tactics. Violations of the FCPA can result in severe penalties, including fines of up to $2 million for companies, imprisonment for individuals, and debarment from government contracts.

The FCPA imposes strict rules on companies doing business internationally while discouraging unethical conduct such as bribing public officials. It aims to create a level playing field for all businesses regardless of size and location by promoting transparent practices worldwide. 

The Consequences of Getting Caught

From a legal standpoint, bribery can lead to criminal charges, fines, imprisonment, or even the loss of business licenses. Bribery can violate anti-bribery laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or the UK Bribery Act for international companies.

In addition to legal consequences, those caught engaging in bribery face severe ethical repercussions. Such individuals and companies risk losing their reputation and credibility in the marketplace. The public may perceive them as corrupt and untrustworthy, leading to a loss of business opportunities and damage to brand equity.

The effects of bribery extend beyond just the individual or company involved; it undermines fair competition in the global market by giving an unfair advantage to those who engage in this illegal activity. Therefore, businesses must prioritize ethics and compliance with anti-bribery laws to ensure long-term success and sustainability.

The Impact on a Company’s Reputation

Companies that engage in bribery not only face legal and financial consequences but also risk losing the trust of their stakeholders and damaging their long-term prospects. Here are some real-world examples of companies that have suffered reputational damage due to bribery allegations: 

  • Walmart: In 2012, Walmart was accused of widespread bribery in Mexico. The allegations resulted in a lengthy investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The scandal led to negative media coverage and public outcry, hurting Walmart’s reputation. 
  • Siemens: In 2008, Siemens was fined over $1 billion by the U.S. and European authorities for engaging in bribery. The scandal damaged the company’s reputation and led to a significant loss of trust among stakeholders. 
  • Samsung: In 2017, Samsung’s leader, Lee Jae-Yong, was convicted of bribery in a corruption scandal involving the South Korean President. The scandal hurt Samsung’s reputation and led to calls for reform in South Korea’s business and political culture.


Bribery is a significant issue that companies must address and prevent if they wish to maintain their reputation as ethical and responsible organizations. While lawyers can provide sound legal advice on the matter, it is ultimately up to the company to take proactive steps in understanding the legal and ethical consequences of bribery and ensure that such practices do not occur within their organization. 

To ensure a successful future, companies must always consider the risks of engaging in bribery and take steps to understand how they can protect themselves from such activities. 

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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Travis Dunn
Travis Dunn
10 months ago

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8 months ago

I think bribery holds both legal and ethical implications that can significantly impact a company’s reputation. Conducting a thorough reputation analysis can reveal the potential fallout from involvement in such practices. Companies that engage in bribery risk damaging their image and losing the trust of stakeholders. It’s important for businesses to prioritize ethical conduct and adhere to legal standards to safeguard their integrity and long-term success.