The relationship between bribery and business is a long one, as they have often gone hand in hand. Bribery and corruption are often automatic, inescapable by-products of business. This is especially true of any government that does have regulations concerning businesses. When a company with ample amounts of money can simply use that money to make bribes and thereby secure further contracts and business for the future, there is very little chance that it will not take advantage of that opportunity, unless there is enough strength in bribery law to discourage that kind of behavior.
As an example, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is one of America's most important pieces of bribery law. While it is somewhat more externally focused, as it specifically prohibits all bribery of foreign officials by United States-based businesses, it represents America's general stance against bribery and corruption. But the law was only enacted because of the large number of such bribery transactions taking place prior to its existence.
One scandal in particular, that of the aerospace company Lockheed, stood out as a major determinant in creating the FCPA. Lockheed had been paying foreign officials to buy their products instead of competing products, which is exactly the type of bribery and corruption that the FCPA would be designed to prevent.
The battle between the terribly attractive, all-too-easy route of bribery for businesses and the counteracting influence of bribery law rages to this day. For example, despite the FCPA, American companies still encounter great difficulty from bribery simply because those companies that can actually use bribery as a strategy have an inherent advantage over those companies that are limited to only ethical and legal options. In other words, because American bribery law prevents American companies from giving bribes to foreign officials, American companies are at a disadvantage against companies that can and do perform acts of bribery and corruption. The United States has sought to remedy this problem by having trading partners enact their own versions of the FCPA, but this has been a slow battle at best.
Even in purely domestic affairs, in which American bribery law sets up a harsh stance towards acts of bribery and corruption, such acts still persist. Bribery of Government officials in America is outlawed in the Constitution, and yet still businesses bribe American public officials in the hopes of increasing their profits, be it through Government contracts, tax exemptions, or other specialized treatments. These occurrences are far rarer in America than in other countries, particularly in undeveloped or developing nations, as those countries tend to have almost no bribery law that would prohibit such actions. As a result, businesses in these countries often still participate consistently in bribery and corruption, and businesses attempting to get at the markets of these developing countries must use similar practices in order to remain competitive.
In the end, bribery and corruption and business go hand in hand so often it is hard to imagine a world in which they will ever be truly and successfully separated. But as bribery laws grow more stringently enforced, one can hope that the world will see fewer and fewer bribery scandals with each passing year.