Treading fine line between bribes and freebies

There exist legal as well as regulatory controls to prevent or minimize freebies. A case in point is The Honest Leadership & Open Government Act passed in 2007 in the US. On the other hand, gift-giving of unethical nature, say when it happens to cross the line in the sand, is trapped under provisions of the 2010 Bribery Act in the UK.

This fine line, though, often gets rather blurry. Apparently, what exactly constitutes bribery and not corporate entertaining is a sort of ‘know it when we see it’ scenario for the Serious Fraud Office there. Indeed, it’s puzzling sometimes why companies offer expensive presents to journalists. Sarah Gordon of The UK Financial Times wrote in a recent article, “A lot of them are not that nice (diaries) or, if they‘re nice (such as an expensive bottle of premium wine) have (like in the FT’s case) to be given to be raffled off for purpose of charity.

“Recent research, however, adds to the obvious case that corporate houses are no fools for spending their sharepayers’ precious money this way, year in year out. People seemed to get more influenced by receiving a present than you would initially suspect.” According to the columnist, there was ample evidence to suggest that ‘gifts does induce co-operation’.

Several research reports done in this regard seem to suggest although subjects are aware that it’s given largely to influence their behavior, they reciprocate, nevertheless. Companies that give gifts to people they are keen to influence in their favor is effective and that the specific guidelines so as to govern their use need to be ‘concomitantly strict’.There is no doubt some are definitely wrong to accept.

In one such incident, David Cameron admitted that he rode a rtd. police horse, which was lent to the former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks, by the Metropolitan Police. He vehemently denied having done so, knowing that the animal had come to symbolize the cozy relationship between News International, police and the senior politicians. Indeed, treading that fine line between bribes and freebies can get tricky, at times.

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