Special Issue "The Organizational Aspects of Corporate and Organizational Crime"

A special issue of Administrative Sciences (ISSN 2076-3387).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Judith van Erp

Staff Law, Economics and Governance, University Utrecht, Domplein 29, 3512 JE Utrecht, Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Interests: qualitative social research, criminal law, public administration, health politics and policy, qualitative and multi-method research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Corporate crimes seem endemic to modern society. Newspapers are filled on a daily basis with examples of financial manipulation, accounting fraud, cartels, bribery, toxic spills and environmental harms, corporate human rights violations, corporate manslaughter or violence, and, recently, software manipulation. Clearly, the problem of corporate crime transcends the micro level of the individual ‘rotten apple’ (Ashforth et al. 2008; Monahan and Quinn 2006): although corporate crimes are ultimately committed by individual members of an organization, they are committed for, and enabled and justified by, organizations. Organization studies have therefore become increasingly preoccupied with organizational misbehavior and deviancy, ‘the dark side of organization’ (Linstead, Maréchal, Griffin 2014), and also has an important contribution to make to our understanding of corporate crime and its prevention.

A Special Issue is being prepared for Administrative Sciences focusing on the organizational aspects of corporate and organizational crime. We broadly define corporate or organizational crimes as illegal or harmful acts, committed by legitimate organizations or their members, for the benefit of these organizations. We invite contributions with regard to three organizational perspectives on corporate crime:

The organization as cause: Organizational strategy, culture, and structure, shape behavior in organizations and are therefore essential explanations of corporate crime. Paradoxically, it is often conformity to organizational norms and goals that can explain corporate deviancy (Vaughan 1999). Research questions might address how organizations socialize individuals to adopt motives and goals, but also norms, beliefs and identities, resulting in normalization of deviance and making ‘good people do bad things’ (Kaptein 2013). Research could also study how organizational structures and information and decisionmaking procedures may create cultures of secrecy and silence (Van de Bunt 2010) and result in irrationalities, ‘group think’, or flawed  risk perceptions (Mills and Koliba 2015). Similarly, organizational hierarchy, authority, and narcissistic leadership  may disengage people from responsibilities and result in crimes of obedience.

The organization as cure: A range of formal and informal systems of social and administrative control are  introduced within organizations to prevent corporate crime. Although some have been effective, compliance systems can also be introduced as symbolic responses to external pressure, and resort to check-the-box bureaucratic ritualism and cosmetic compliance (Merton 1968; Krawiec 2003).  It is therefore important to study how formal control systems interact with informal control within organizations to create a shared culture of integrity. Research could address corporate governance, compliance programmes, audits and accountability mechanisms, ethics training programmes, whistle blowing and reporting programmes, and the functioning and effectiveness of risk and compliance managers within organizations. Methodologically, there is a knowledge gap with regard to the causality relation between formal and informal control: Do formal control systems make for ethical organizations, or do ethical organizations create elaborate control systems (Apel and Paternoster 2009)?

The organization of the crime: The question how corporate crimes are organized, deserves specific attention from an organization studies perspective, as organizations provide opportunities for generating, hiding and spending illegal profit that individuals lack. Rather than technical analyses of modus operandi, an organization studies perspective can provide understandings of how business offenders use their organizations and reputations to conceal illegal acts (Van de Bunt 2010). As corporate crimes are often embedded within firm’s social environment, research can also address how organizations collaborate to commit and conceal crime (Lord and Levi 2017; Jaspers 2017). In particular, the role of social and organizational networks and business associations in facilitating connections between elite members and deviant organizations, as well as in disseminating deviant norms and illegal practices, is important (Baker and Faulkner 1993; Reeves-Latour and Morselli 2017; Bichler, Schoepfer and Bush 2015). A last obvious topic of study is the question whether regulatory and market-based prevention strategies effectively undermine the organization of corporate crimes.

For this Special Issue, we invite papers with disciplinary roots in organization and management studies, public administration, business ethics, organizational psychology and sociology, criminology, and related disciplines. We particularly invite multi- and interdisciplinary work. Both theoretical and empirical papers, and both quantitative and qualitative research are welcome, with a particular but not exclusive interest in organizational ethnography. We aim for a wide international authorship with a global reach.


Ashforth, B., D. Gioia, S. Robinson, L. Trevino (2008), Introduction to Special Topic Forum: Re-Viewing Organizational Corruption. In The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Jul., 2008), pp. 670-684.

Apel, R., and R. Paternoster (2009), Understanding “Criminogenic” Corporate Culture: What White-Collar Crime Researchers Can Learn from Studies of the Adolescent Employment–Crime Relationship. In R. Apel, S. Simpson, D. Weisburd (eds.), The Criminology of White-Collar Crime, Springer, pp. 15-33.

Baker, W., and R. Faulkner (1993), the Social Organization of Conspiracy: Illegal Networks in the Heavy Electrical Equipment Industry. In American Sociological Review 58(6) December 1993.

Bichler G., A. Schoepfer, S. Bush (2015), White Collars and Black Ties: Interlocking Social Circles of Elite Corporate Offenders. in Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 31 (3) 279-296.

Bunt, H.G. van de (2010), Walls of secrecy and silence: The Madoff case and cartels in the construction industry. Criminology & Public Policy, 9(3), 435-453.

Jaspers, J.D. (2017), Managing Cartels: how Cartel Participants Create Stability in the Absence of law. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 23(3), 319–335.

Kaptein, M.  (2013), Workplace Morality, Behavioral Ethics in Organizations, Emerald Publishing.

Krawiec, K. (2003), Cosmetic Compliance and the Failure of Negotiated Governance. In Washington University Law Quarterly, 81, p. 487.

Linstead, S., G. Maréchal, R. Griffin (2014), Theorizing and Researching the Dark Side of Organization, Organization Studies 2014, Vol. 35(2) 165–188.

Lord, N. and M. Levi (2017), Organizing the finances for and the finances from transnational corporate bribery. in European Journal of Criminology 2017, Vol. 14(3) 365–389.

Merton, R., (1968) Social Theory and Social Structure, Free Press.

Mills, R. W. and Koliba, C. J. (2015), The challenge of accountability in complex regulatory networks: The case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In Regulation & Governance, 9: 77–91.

Monahan, S., and  B. Quinn (2006), Beyond ‘bad apples’ and ‘weak leaders’. Toward a neo-institutional explanation of organizational deviance, in Theoretical Criminology Vol. 10(3): 361–385; 1362–4806.

Reeves-Latour, M., Morselli, C. (2017), Bid-rigging networks and state-corporate crime in the construction industry. Social Networks.

Vaughan, D. (1999), The Dark Side of Organization, Mistake, Misconduct, Disaster. In Annual Review of Sociology 25:1, 271-305.

Prof. Dr. Judith van Erp
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Corruption in Organizations: Ethical Climate and Individual Motives
Adm. Sci. 2018, 8(1), 4; doi:10.3390/admsci8010004
Received: 22 December 2017 / Revised: 13 February 2018 / Accepted: 14 February 2018 / Published: 19 February 2018
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The aim of this research was to examine how organizational and individual factors, in concert, shape corruption. We examined whether the ethical climate of organizations is related to corruption, and if so, whether it affects corruption through individual motives for corruption. A large-scale
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The aim of this research was to examine how organizational and individual factors, in concert, shape corruption. We examined whether the ethical climate of organizations is related to corruption, and if so, whether it affects corruption through individual motives for corruption. A large-scale questionnaire study was conducted among public officials (n = 234) and business employees (n = 289) who were in a position to make corrupt decisions. The findings suggest that public and private sector employees who perceive their organizational climate as more egoistic and less ethical are more prone to corruption. This relationship was fully mediated by individual motives, specifically by personal and social norms on corruption. These results indicate that employees who perceive their organization’s ethical climate as more egoistic and less ethical experience weaker personal and social norms to refrain from corruption, making them more corruption-prone. Hence, strategies addressing the interplay between organizational factors and individual motives seem promising in curbing corruption. To effectively withhold employees from engaging in corruption, organizations could deploy measures that strengthen an organizations’ ethical climate and encourage ethical decision-making based on concern for the wellbeing of others, as well as measures increasing the strength of personal and social norms to refrain from corruption. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Organizational Aspects of Corporate and Organizational Crime)

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