When does ‘Quid pro quo’ become fraud?
The ‘quid pro quo’ expression has been viral due to its relation to the case of the publicly revealed conversation between Trump and the President of Ukraine. The Latin phrase also appeared in a recent Israeli prime minister fraud case. ‘Quid pro quo’ is a Latin phrase that can be interpreted as ‘something for something’ or an exchange.
In the Trump case, the phrase represents Trump’s action of urging the President of Ukraine to work with the US Attorney General to investigate Joe Biden, who is expected to be Trump’s opponent in the upcoming presidential election. In return, Trump will provide military financial assistance for hundreds of millions of dollars for Ukraine.
The Latin phrase is often used in political and legal terms to refer to acts of violation – i.e fraudulent exchange. Quoted from The New York Times (11/18/2019), Columbia Law School professor Richard Briffault said that the phrase ‘quid pro quo’ related to a corrupt deal and could be seen in cases of bribery, extortion and sexual violence. Whereas federal bribery prosecutions were the legal cases in which ‘quid pro quo’ came up the most.
However, the literal meaning of ‘quid pro quo’ does not always mean violation. For example, a wife agreed to make dinner, provided the husband would wash all the used tableware afterwards. In a business context, the phrase also does not always mean a negative connotation; for example, a media company provides free advertising space for construction companies. In return, the construction company sponsors an event organized by the media.
‘Quid pro quo’ becomes a violation when an exchange is based on bad intentions and generates adverse impacts. For example, a supplier gives a bonus to a company’s procurement manager, provided the manager ensures that the supplier wins in a tender. Such a ‘quid pro quo’ harms the company and impedes business competition, therefore it is called bribery.
Then, can a procurement manager who receives a gift in the New Year from his colleagues in exchange for strengthening the cooperation between companies be categorized as an act of bribery? This is why in the context of compliance when setting a code of conduct, companies need to establish definitions of violations and their limitations.
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