Intermediaries in Corruption: an Experiment
Abstract: Intermediaries facilitate exchanges between buyers and sellers. Intermediation activities are an important part of the formal economy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that intermediaries are ubiquitous in corrupt activities; however, empirical evidence on their role as facilitators of corrupt transactions is scarce. This paper asks whether, besides eliminating uncertainty, intermediaries facilitate corruption by reducing the moral or psychological costs of possible bribers and bribees. Indeed, intermediaries might create psychological distance between the briber and the corrupt transaction, and might institutionalize corruption. We address our research question using a specifically designed bribery lab experiment that simulates petty corruption transactions between private citizens and public officials. The experimental data confirm that intermediaries lower the moral costs of citizens and officials and, thus, increase corruption.