The Most Massachusetts Bribe

One thing that is clear about bribery and corruption is that the payments are not always envelopes full of cash. The FCPA opinions have long pointed out that directing charitable donations to the decision-makers “pet” charity could be a bribe. As former Director of the the Division of Enforcement at the SEC, Andrew Ceresney pointed out, “bribes come in many shapes and sizes.”

That shape could include coffee. It was not just a cup of coffee, but hundreds of pounds of coffee that lead to this story.

Former Massachusetts state senator Brian A. Joyce is facing a series of charges for racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion.

Among the most Massachusetts of charges is the allegation that Joyce took official action, or pressured others to take official action, on behalf of a coffee-business franchise owner in exchange for hundreds of pounds of free coffee. The indictment and press release don’t say which “coffee and pastry fast-food business” franchise was involved, but there is only one in Massachusetts with that many locations in New England: Dunkin’ Donuts.

The indictment alleges that the franchise owner gave Joyce 504 pounds of coffee at Joyce’s request in exchange for moving favorable legislation through the Massachusetts legislature.

Not to paint Joyce as a completely bad guy, the indictment points out that Joyce allegedly gave a pound of coffee to each state senator. Unfortunately, that generosity caught the attention of an intrepid reporter which lead to a news story and an ethics investigation. Allegedly, Joyce conspired with the franchise owner to falsify invoices for legal services and state that the coffee for given in barter.

The story is reminder that bribery comes in many shapes and sizes, including small, medium and large, with cream and sugar.