Soft and hard strategies of
regulating economic crime
Norwegian Police University College, Oslo, Norway
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the variations used in different forms of
regulatory practices in four Norwegian agencies. The crucial question is what explains the differences
in regulatory approaches (from soft to hard).
Design/methodology/approach – The agencies analysed are the Banking, Insurance and
Securities Commission of Norway, the Norwegian Competition Authority, the Norwegian Pollution
Control Authority and the Revenue Service. They represent different approaches to regulation, from
the use of soft and persuasive to more hard and coercive approaches. This paper is based on research
by interviews of representatives of the four agencies, and analysis of open sources (reports).
Findings – Important ﬁndings are that efﬁciency cannot explain the preference for strategies.
Among the factors inﬂuencing the use of strategies were type of harm regulated, offender type (big or
small corporations, single persons), the victim (personal, non-personal or state), the political support of
the regulation, the professional background of the staff and the general aim of the regulation.
Originality/value – The paper is opening up a new ﬁeld of research in Norway. Few, if any have
studied the working of these agencies in Norway. They are important since the day-to-day regulation
of white-collar crime (WCC) is mainly done by these agencies, not the police or the courts. To get a
better understanding of the regulation of WCC more research should be done on the workings of the
Keywords Regulation, Governance, White collar workers, Criminals, Policing, Norway
Paper type Research paper
Criminal law, police, prosecutors and the court system deal with a minority of the acts
labelled economic crime. The dark numbers for many types of economic crimes are
substantial. What is detected is the famous tip of the iceberg. When it comes to
violations known to the regulating authorities civil and administrative remedies are
often used as sanctions (Schlegel, 1990, p. 4). In Norway alone there is “a jungle” of
regulatory agencies covering different parts and aspects of the corporate world. Some
of these agencies have an image as rather tough and hard-boiled, while others more
appear as “soft” service institutions. The tough agencies often focus their activity on
violations of the laws and use coercive regulatory techniques, while the
service-oriented agencies rarely talk about crimes or violations; instead they stress
the importance of persuasion, incentives and the importance of trust and co-operation
with the industry. Between these two extremes there are a wide spectre of nuances and
variations of reactive and proactive strategies.
The following presentation is mainly based on my report “A
straffe, veilede eller
overtale” (Larsson, 2002a). This was grounded on qualitative expert interviews of
central ofﬁcials working in the four agencies studied supplemented by data from
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The author would like to thank Steve Tombs, Kauko Aromaa and Michael Levi for constructive
criticism on drafts of this paper.
Journal of Financial Crime
Vol. 14 No. 2, 2007
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited