GitHub recognizes that our business is built on positive and transparent relationships. While informal interactions and exchanges of gifts may be part of developing those relationships and may even be considered customary in some countries, we need to ensure that we’re following anti-bribery laws. We have a legal obligation to behave ethically, including by not using such interactions to create a special advantage or influence a deal.
As a reminder, our Code of Ethics states:
You must never pay, offer to pay, promise to pay, induce, accept, or authorize payment of anything else of value, to anyone—including to anyone in a position of power or authority, such as government officials, or in commercial transactions—in order to obtain or keep business, or secure any other improper advantage for GitHub or Microsoft. You also must not solicit or accept a bribe, kickback, or any other improper cash payment. ... [GitHub employees] are required to keep accurate and fair records of all transactions involving any expense made on GitHub’s behalf—for example, by keeping receipts and providing accurate descriptions of your expenses—or any other transaction involving the disposal or transfer of GitHub assets. Such actions are required by the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the U.K. Bribery Act of 2010, and anti-bribery laws of other jurisdictions in which GitHub does business and are also simply the right thing to do.
GitHub's Code of Ethics elaborates on certain situations, including gifts, travel, and entertainment; facilitating payments; charitable donations; jobs; and working with representatives, as well as on who is considered a government official.
Our Standards of Conduct prohibit:
Bribing government officials or other individuals to gain an unfair advantage, and taking bribes from anyone.
That means not only no cash or cash equivalent of any kind, but nothing of value, should be given to anyone (including civil servants, government officials, or anyone in a position of power or authority, as well as people not in any of those privileged positions) in order to influence them or taken from anyone to influence GitHub. Such activity is prohibited by the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and UK Anti-Bribery laws, both of which govern GitHub’s actions globally.
Examples of acceptable and unacceptable gifts
So what does “of value” mean? Keep in mind that no gifts are acceptable for government officials (ok, maybe stickers). You should always ask them what their policies permit and prohibit. But if in doubt, please run it by Legal to make sure. For example, many U.S. congresspeople will not let you take them out for dinner and pay.
As for other customers or prospective customers, certain things might seem trivial but have great value to someone else. For example, although it might not seem like a big deal to you to get your friend’s daughter hired as an intern, it might be of huge value to them. But if she is not qualified and you pull strings to make it happen, then it isn't ok. In addition, if the intention is to improperly influence, anything, however small, might be considered "of value."
🙅 Here are some other things that aren't ok:
- First class airfare to GitHub offices for Executive Briefings ✈️+🍾
- Winery tours 🍷
- Recommending a friend’s kid to a prestigious private school for admission 🎓
- Tickets to Disneyland 👸, the World Cup 🥅, the Olympics 🏅
- A futbol ⚽️ autographed by a famous player
- A contribution to a charity
🙆 Here is some stuff that is actually ok for customers or prospective customers:
- Economy class airfare to GitHub offices for Executive Briefings ✈️
- Bleacher-type tickets to a sporting event ⚾️
- A reasonably priced dinner in town 🍽
- A small box of chocolates as an end of year thank you 🍫
All of the above applies to taking bribes too. So if a vendor or prospective vendor sends you something “of value,” don’t accept it—or at least run it by Legal before you do.
If you are planning to provide or accept an informal gift (that is not one of our promotional items like t-shirts and sticker swag), please make sure to follow the process below.
Keep in mind that what's an acceptable amount can vary. For example, spending $50 on dinner might be considered a lot of money in some countries but not as much in others. So, when in doubt, ask!
Generally speaking, for any expenses exceeding $150, you'll need approval (each time) from Legal in writing. And for any gifts you receive exceeding $150, you'll need to report that (each time) to Legal in writing. (Legal is just weighing in on the bribery question. You might still need to check with Finance for other reasons.)
When you submit your expense report for reimbursement, please:
- Indicate the recipient and the purpose of the gift in the notes; and
- Include a copy of the email approval
What happens if you don’t follow the policy and GitHub ends up paying for a prospective customer and his family to fly first class to Japan and attend the Tokyo Olympics? Or if you drop off a suitcase of Euros for a government official in a pre-arranged train station locker?
FINES and JAIL. Not necessarily just for GitHub, either. You might get to spend a few years in jail, yourself, and it won’t matter if the customer ever submitted an order to GitHub after their trip to Japan or if the government official even picked up the suitcase of cash. Basically, it doesn’t matter whether you actually made a bribe. Yoda notwithstanding, it’s the trying that counts.
For more information and context on rules, enforcement, and penalties, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is an excellent resource.