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Ask any lay person for the meaning of “bribery,” and he or she will provide you with a clear definition of an unlawful exchange between two corrupt parties: an illicit quid pro quo. During the past several years, however, aggressive prosecutors and willing legislators have sought to expand that definition, creating a patchwork of often conflicting and vague definitions of this otherwise easily understood crime. In today’s world of complex multijurisdictional criminal enforcement, bribery means different things under different statutes and in different jurisdictions. A bribe, in other words, is not always a bribe. And, if the trend continues, the once-clear identifying mark of bribery — the quid pro quo — will be cast aside.

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