Under Australian law, offering gifts, hospitality, and other expenses is not unlawful in and of itself. If a gift, hospitality, or expense amounts to a benefit or business advantage that is not legitimately due to the recipient and is designed to achieve a business advantage that is forbidden by, for example, the international bribery offence, it will be considered a bribe. Otherwise, any gift, hospitality, or cost payment is legal as long as it is reasonable and appropriate to the parties’ business connection and unrelated to any discretionary decisions, such as the grant of a license or a contract sought by tender.
In Belgium, there is no overarching or general guideline on gifts, hospitality, or expenditure. There are, however, sectoral regulations and norms in place, such as in the healthcare and public sectors. The basic line is that the Belgian anti-corruption rules’ phrase “offer, promise, or advantage of whatever sort” should be understood widely and does not merely involve monetary proposals. As a result, if gifts, hospitality, or disbursements are given in conditions that could be construed as a bribe (see question 2.4), they are prohibited. Hospitality and presents are usually acceptable as long as they do not go beyond what is considered customary business behavior in the local community. Companies must have appropriate systems and controls (including notice and/or approval processes) to ensure that gifts, hospitality, and costs comply with the law. In reality, these systems and controls frequently entail establishing permission procedures for hospitality, gifts, or expenditure that exceed certain criteria, as well as the usage of an internal register for transparency.
Depending on the circumstances, the suggestion or provision of gifts, hospitality, or costs to a person may be considered bribery or influence peddling. Under French criminal law, there are no criteria or guidelines for deciding when a gift or hospitality has exceeded the line. Similarly, there is no particular safe harbor or de minimis sum in French law. The question of whether gifts, hospitality, or expenses incurred constitute an offense must be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on the facts of the situation. Members of the French Parliament, on the other hand, are bound by a code of behavior when it comes to gifts and hospitality: Members of the French National Assembly must declare any gift, invitation to a cultural or sporting event, or benefit received in the course of their mandate to the compliance officer. They must also declare any travel acceptances. The report must be completed prior to the trip and must include information on the trip’s objective and funding. Members of the French Senate must declare gifts, presents, or in-kind benefits in excess of €150 (excluding customary gifts) to the Senate Office within 30 days after receipt. Invitations that cost more than €150 must be reported to the same office at least 30 days before to the event or upon receipt. Invitations to cultural or sporting events in France, as well as invitations from French authorities or those tied to a local mission, are not included by the reporting. The Senate’s website lists all of the invitations that have been reported. The Sapin II Act strengthened lobbying restrictions in France by establishing: a definition of the term “lobbyist,” as well as transparency and ethical requirements, as well as penalties for non-compliance. The following are some of the ethical guidelines that lobbyists should follow: Refrain from suggesting or offering big presents or other perks to their acquaintances. The law does not supply any extra information; and Refrain from encouraging their connections to break the rules of good behavior. Case law: French courts have traditionally applied a broad interpretation to the term “any advantage.” Bribery can be defined as the providing of meals (under specific conditions), money, non-cash benefits, and entertainment, for example, according to French courts. Self-appreciation: It is the responsibility of the relevant person to determine whether the proposal, offering, or acceptance of gifts, hospitality, or expenditure is legal. The Agence française anticorruption (AFA) expressly demands the inclusion of standards for gifts, hospitality, and sponsorships in the compliance program of organizations subject to the Sapin II Act (see question 4.1). The AFA specifically recommended entities in its 2018 annual report to: Explain the circumstances under which gifts and hospitality may be accepted, and keep track of the nature, amount, frequency, and provenance of any gifts or hospitality received in a separate register. The AFA is actively working on gift and hospitality criteria.
Benefits are not considered corrupt if they are not given in exchange for something of value and are deemed socially adequate. Gifts, entertainment, invitations, and expenditure allowances may be granted in particular circumstances if there is no injustice. The most important factor is that the present is both socially acceptable and widely accepted. In light of this, financial donations are not permitted. The function of the beneficiary, the relationship between the provider and the beneficiary, the giver’s technique, and the nature, value, and timing of the gift all play a role in determining the social adequacy of the benefit. If the recipient is a public official, the standard of social appropriateness is higher. A gift may not give the impression of a public official’s prejudice or avarice towards third parties under any circumstances. The beneficiary’s place in the hierarchy can also help determine if a gift is acceptable. Representative invitations, for example, are more socially appropriate than ones from basic administrators. Persistent points of contact between the parties involved may dispute the acceptability of a gift. Furthermore, the gift’s inadmissibility is indicated by the giver’s secret approach. Low-value presents are often permissible in terms of gift admissibility, albeit differing value limits may apply in this regard. The acceptability of dinner invites or event invitations is determined by the value, the invited person’s personal relationship, and other unique circumstances. Other types of contributions, such as donations and sponsorship, are typically associated with an unstated presumption of undue influence on the beneficiary’s decisions. To avoid this, businesses should only offer such assistance if clear guidelines are followed. The contributions, in particular, should always be open to the public. Ireland is a country in Europe. Corporate hospitality, such as meals, match tickets, and other forms of entertainment, is defined as a “gift, consideration, or advantage” in the usual sense. Such gifts or entertainment, on the other hand, are not always covered by the Corruption Act. The supply of corporate hospitality must meet the Corruption Act’s standards in order to be considered a crime. Corporate hospitality supplied solely to maintain good business connections is not prohibited by the statute. All office holders and public officials are expected to follow the fundamental principle that an offer of gifts, hospitality, or services should not be accepted if it would, or would appear to, place them under an obligation. Small token presents, such as calendars, diaries, or pens of little value, are generally permissible as long as there is no intention of influencing the government official. Gifts of money or other property valued at more than €650 given to an office holder, his or her spouse, or their children as a result of their office will be considered gifts to the state and must be relinquished.
The Ministry of Justice declared in instructions published before the Bribery Act went into effect that it had no intention of outlawing all entertainment and hospitality. When the act was about to become law, the government emphasized that real hospitality and fair, proportionate commercial expenditure would not be prosecuted. Unless there are fears that the spending is a hidden form of bribery, any company spending on entertainment and hospitality is unlikely to draw governmental scrutiny. Most businesses create a manual or set of guidelines to help staff distinguish between minor gifts and commercial bribes. To avoid bribery claims, a company should have suitable policies and processes in place for gifts, entertainment, and hospitality. However, because the 2010 act does not provide any direct exemptions or guidance on what is and is not acceptable, it is impossible to determine precisely what the boundaries are.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prohibits bribes of “anything of value” – such as hospitality, travel, and entertainment expenses – from being given corruptly to a foreign public official in order to influence or induce that official to take an official action (or omit to take an official action) and obtain or retain business. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued guidelines on this topic in “A Resource Guide to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” (2012, updated 2015), which state that hospitality, travel, and entertainment expenses of nominal value – such as cab fares, reasonable meals, and entertainment expenses – are not subject to the FCPA. According to the Resource Guide, large and lavish expenditure, on the other hand, may suggest a corrupt motive.