Corporate investigators provide investigative services to organisations faced with internal norm violations. Four main professional groups of corporate investigators can be identified in the Netherlands – private investigation firms, in-house security departments, forensic accountants and forensic legal investigators. These corporate investigators move in a semi-autonomous social field with a high level of discretion and autonomy. Extensive access to sources of information and settlement options, together with a context of highly fragmented legal frameworks, produce a corporate security sector that can provide its clients with a choice of solutions for norm violations. Corporate investigators are highly flexible in their investigatory work and in relation to the settlements that they recommend to their clients. Corporate investigators incorporate normative and reputational considerations, such as due process and fair play, into their day-to-day business. They largely work autonomously, engaging the criminal justice system only when this is considered desirable in the light of pragmatic or normative considerations. Other settlement options involve engaging civil and labour courts, arranging matters through out-of-court settlement agreements and making use of internal (labour) regulations of the organisation. Cooperation between law enforcement agencies and corporate investigators is fairly rare – public/private relationships are better conceptualised as coexistence, with public and private actors meeting only on an ad hoc basis. This means that the state has little insight into what happens in the corporate security sector. While this has the benefit for society that the criminal justice system is spared the trouble and costs of investigating and prosecuting these matters, it also means there is effectively no democratic control over the corporate security sector. For reasons of transparency and control, it may be wise to make the private investigation permit – now only obligatory for private investigation firms – a prerequisite for all corporate investigators, regardless of their professional or institutional background. As a result of the empirical work reported upon, it is proposed that control over such a permit system should be placed with the Dutch Data Protection Authority, rather than the police.

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R. van Swaaningen (René) , N. Dorn (Nicholas)
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Meerts, C. (2018, February 23). The Semi-Autonomous World of Corporate Investigators. Retrieved from