‘Determining the adequate enforcement of corporate and white-collar crimes in Europe’

European nation‐states face domestic, regional and international pressures to respond to some white‐collar and corporate crimes and scandals. For example,

  1. (inter)national, non‐governmental organisations such as Transparency International (TI), Global Witness and Global Financial Integrity in addition to nation‐state specific campaign groups,
  2. supra-national regional organisations such as the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE) and
  3. international intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations (UN), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the (officially informal) Financial Action Task Force (FATF) develop standards, rules and conventions with which nation‐states are morally and politically compelled to sign‐up to and implement in order to respond to those white‐collar and corporate crimes that fall within their remit.

Increasingly, to ensure that such agreements are not merely symbolic, they are accompanied by periodic evaluations.

These concerned parties often focus on law enforcement and other control mechanisms as appropriate policy responses which reflects the symbolic and moral nature of criminal justice in tackling national and transnational impunity. However, this creates tensions with national governments where there has traditionally been a preference for regulation (particularly ‘self‐regulation’), persuasion, negotiation and non‐criminal responses to white‐collar and corporate offenders. Both self‐regulation and the aversion to criminal prosecution combine ideology with pragmatism, given the huge per‐case costs and evidential difficulties in high‐profile transnational cases.

But how do we determine when particular sorts of enforcement or regulatory responses are sufficient and adequate, or how ‘active’ responsible ‘regulators’ are, both in the instant case and taking all enforcement responses together? We can properly assess levels of state and non‐state activity against crimes and their adequacy only in relation to levels and organisation of crime and/or ‘public bads’ (whether or not the latter can be evidenced as crimes). Existing methodologies for reviewing the latter are under‐developed. In light of this, relative to what variables are levels of enforcement and (self‐)regulation understood? How can we develop an appropriate ‘threshold’, against which levels of enforcement and (self‐)regulation can be compared? If this is a serious problem at the national level, it is a far more difficult problem transnationally, where consistent data on both the levels of harms and enforcement practices are unobtainable.

This chapter explores these questions and discusses the implications of the difficulties of establishing ‘adequate enforcement’ for methodological approaches to researching white‐collar and corporate crimes throughout Europe and the subsequent implications for policing strategies. The authors begin by considering what is and ought to be understood by ‘adequate enforcement/regulatory performance’, followed by a brief analysis of the need to understand extent and scope for performance measures to have value. Given the diversity of white‐collar and corporate crimes, it would be over‐ambitious in a work of this length to attempt to address all such crimes. Instead, in this chapter these general themes are explored in relation to two concrete issues: transnational corruption in the context of international commerce; and, more briefly, insider dealing. Here, the authors explore available data to inform extent and consider current performance measures, arguing that as we can only ever understand some level of the problem, current performance measures cannot provide valid indicators of levels of enforcement. Instead, research and policing strategies that aim to understand the organisation and processes of white‐collar and corporate crimes and the corresponding impact of intervention, disruption and prevention strategies provides a more useful indicator of ‘regulatory performance’. There is the further complication of fairness in the treatment of different sorts of crimes and social status offenders that makes this unbearably difficult, creating the sorts of tensions between retributive and restorative justice that first exercised the critiques by Braithwaite and collaborators in the 1980s and after.

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