Giving the Perfect Gift: 4 tips for avoiding compliance risks this holiday season

Giving the Perfect Gift: 4 tips for avoiding compliance risks this holiday season

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December 17, 2015

Gift-giving can be difficult, particularly for those recipients who already seem to have everything.  So you can imagine the challenge faced by visiting heads of state tasked with selecting an appropriate gift for, say, President Barack Obama.  Some have opted for luxury, while others have opted for less extravagant, if more thoughtful gifts.

As in the world of politics, gift-giving can be a source of anxiety in the business world, but with the added danger of running afoul of international anti-bribery laws that regulate gift-giving to foreign government officials.  Here are a few tips this year for employees looking to give gifts to their customers and business partners:

  1. Don’t offend. Each country has its own gift-giving etiquette, so make sure you understand not only what’s reasonable and permissible under local laws, but what’s considered polite and also impolite in a given country. A gift of alcohol to a recipient who is Muslim, for example, would be a bad idea.
  1. Don’t assume that expensive is better. Given that China continues to top the rankings for number of top buyers of luxury goods around the world, it’s easy to assume that Chinese officials would prefer expensive gifts.  However, the recent crackdown on corruption in China has put a serious damper on government bling.  Giving a luxury item may actually put the recipient in an awkward position, as keeping it could cause more headache than it’s worth.
  1. Make it personal. A gift need not be expensive in order to impress.  Find out something unique about the recipient, maybe his or her alma mater or favorite sports team, and your gift will be more valuable than you could ever imagine.
  1. Play it safe with logo’d items. A small gift with a company logo on it makes clear that the intention is to have the recipient remember the name of the company, not win some personal favor.  Such gifts are often pre-approved by a company’s compliance team.

If employees follow these tips, they may just be able to give that perfect gift, without violating international anti-bribery laws or their company’s compliance policies. 

For more on this topic, please see the following resources:

Recognized Gift-Giving Holidays
When is a Mooncake Just a Mooncake?
Tips and Bribes:  Not the Same Thing
Be My Valentine . . . Mr. Foreign Official?

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