Bribery is the offer or acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government/public official or employee. Bribes can take the form of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. Other forms of bribes may include property, various goods, privileges, services and favors.
Bribes are always intended to influence or alter the action of various individuals and go hand in hand with both political and public corruption. No written agreement is necessary to prove the crime of bribery, but a prosecutor generally must show corrupt intent. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting can be charged with bribery.
In the sporting world, for example, one boxer might offer another a payoff to "throw" (deliberately lose) an important fight. Or a gambler may offer to pay a basketball player to “shave” points off the score so a team loses by more points. If a referee or other sporting official is convicted or bribery, the punishment can consist of a fine and imprisonment of up to five years.
In the corporate arena, a company could bribe employees of a rival company for recruitment services. Even when public officials are involved, a bribe does not need to be harmful to the public interest in order to be illegal.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977 makes it unlawful for a United States citizen, as well as certain foreign issuers of securities, to pay a foreign official in order to obtain business with any person. In 1998 a provision to the Act was added which applies to any foreign firms or foreign-born persons who take any act in furtherance of a corrupt payment while in the United States.