The Cumulative Effect of Gift Giving

The line between holiday gift giving and corruption is very gray. You need to be concerned that traditional holiday gifts are not actually holiday corruption bribes.

Not only should you look at an individual gift, you need to look to gifts to the organization as a whole. One excessive gift may seem over the top to the recipient. But what happens when the gift-giver does the same for many people in the organization. One gift of $100 may be a little much. But if 25 people get similar gifts from the same gift-giver, then you have a $2,500 gift issue.

Gifts should not result in, or even give the perception of, a conflict of interest. An example of this would be excessive gift giving from a vendor — would you direct more business to that vendor solely because of the gifts, thereby compromising your obligations? This is the conflict that results when more than nominal gifts are given

The action by the SEC against Lazard Capital Markets LLC is an example of excessive gift-giving. The charges lump together $600,000 in entertainment expenses. But that was over a 4 year period. $125,000 per year is still too much, but illustrates the cumulative effect.

You can read more about the Lazard case: