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Bribery is the corrupt practice of inducing a person to act contrary to accepted or moral behavior, by promising or giving a reward or inducement, often a financial one. For example, a motorist may bribe a police officer not to issue a ticket for speeding, a citizen seeking paperwork or utility line connections may bribe a functionary for faster service, a construction company may bribe a civil servant to award a contract, or a narcotics smuggler may bribe a judge to lessen criminal penalties. In some cases, the briber holds a powerful role and controls the transaction; in other cases, a bribe may be effectively extracted from the person paying it.

Bribery is usually illegal. A gray area may exist when payments to smooth transactions are made. In some countries, this practice is the norm. United States law is particularly strict in limiting the ability of businesses to pay for the awarding of contracts, but allows for facilitation payments.

Bribery often results from the fact that a developing nation does not have the tax structure to pay civil servants an adequate salary. Nevertheless most economists regard bribery as a bad thing because it encourages rent seeking.

Bribery of disc jockeys to play selected musical artists, a practice engaged in by certain record companies, is called payola.