Corporate Investigations: Beyond Notions of Public–Private Relations

Published date01 February 2020
Date01 February 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2020, Vol. 36(1) 86 –100
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986219890202
Corporate Investigations:
Beyond Notions of
Public–Private Relations
Clarissa Meerts1
Based on qualitative research primarily carried out in the Netherlands, this article
describes corporate investigations within the private sector in terms of investigators’
operational autonomy, which, in only a minority of cases, involves contact or
cooperation with governmental law enforcement agencies. It is argued that, given this
de facto public–private separation, theoretical concepts within the literature that take
the nation-state as the imagined historical origin and/or continuing partner of corporate
security—concepts such as privatization, responsibilization, or multilateralization—fail
to capture the autonomy of corporate investigations. Furthermore, such concepts
are politically distracting and potentially dangerous for public policy, since they imply
that corporate security is effectively surveilled and supervised by the state within a
framework of public–private cooperation. Nothing could be further from the truth;
indeed the limited liaisons that do occur are initiated by the private sector.
private policing, public–private relations, corporate investigations, employee crime,
norm violations
In contemporary society, crime control concerns not only the criminal justice system
but also many other government agencies located outside the criminal justice sys-
tem, and private sector companies (Gurinskay & Nalla, 2018; White, 2014). According
to an estimate by The Guardian, in 2017, the number of persons employed in private
1Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Clarissa Meerts, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the
890202CCJXXX10.1177/1043986219890202Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeMeerts

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