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Let's say I go into Starbucks and slip an extra dollar to the barrista so that he gives me a slice of cake for free (just a small example). Is this legal according to criminal law?

I know it's illegal to bribe state employees, but I never understood how the law applies to 100% private companies.

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In the USA, there is no federal law that expressly prohibits bribes in a commercial context ("commercial bribing"), but there are laws in many states - so it depends on the state. Most states do have laws about it.


For example, the law in the state of New York is quite strict. What you describe would qualify as "commercial bribing in the second degree". You would be liable under § 180.00:

A person is guilty of commercial bribing in the second degree when he confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon any employee, agent or fiduciary without the consent of the latter's employer or principal, with intent to influence his conduct in relation to his employer's or principal's affairs.

Commercial bribing in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

New York Penal Law § 180.00 - Commercial bribing in the second degree

The employee receiving the bribe would also be liable, under § 180.05 - Commercial bribe receiving in the second degree:

An employee, agent or fiduciary is guilty of commercial bribe receiving in the second degree when, without the consent of his employer or principal, he solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any benefit from another person upon an agreement or understanding that such benefit will influence his conduct in relation to his employer's or principal's affairs.

Commercial bribe receiving in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

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    Also, a contract based on bribery is void at common law – Dale M Mar 3 '17 at 13:12

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