Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 83–106 | Cite as

The role of costs, benefits, and moral judgments in private-to-private corruption

  • Krista JaaksonEmail author
  • Lars Johannsen
  • Karin Hilmer Pedersen
  • Maaja Vadi
  • Gaygysyz Ashyrov
  • Anne Reino
  • Mari-Liis Sööt


Private-to-private corruption has no direct victim and is therefore difficult to combat. Yet it undermines market competition, impedes growth, and sets development at risk. Therefore, knowledge about the reasons for committing crimes is necessary for changing corrupt practices within private sector. This article explores business managers’ perceptions of the extent of bribing within their lines of business and possible explanations for these perceptions. We analyze a survey of 1000 managers of private companies in Denmark and Estonia using structural equation models. Comparing two behavioral causes for bribes, a rational choice theory and a cognitivist theory of action, which adds moral judgment to instrumental rationality, we find that managers find corruption less common when they see it as a breach of their own moral judgment. Costs of bribing do not matter and benefits from bribing play a marginal role in the perceived extent of bribing. Context is also important: managers in Denmark and outside capital cities in both countries deem bribing less common and this is not because they are personally less tolerant of bribing. The implication of this study is that fostering condemnatory attitudes toward private-to-private corruption should be a standard act in combating this form of corporate crime.



This study was partly supported by Project IUT20–49 Structural Change as the Factor of Productivity Growth in the Case of Catching up Economies.

Compliance with ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business AdministrationTon Duc Thang UniversityHo Chi Minh CityVietnam
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  3. 3.School of Economics and Business AdministrationUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  4. 4.Estonian Ministry of JusticeTallinnEstonia

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