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RegTech, or the regulatory technologies industry, has over the past years been the fastest growing segment of FinTech, expanding into new areas of the compliance industry, beyond financial services. This growth can be ascribed to several key moments: (1) the dramatic expansion and increased complexity of both soft and hard regulations which have been often introduced following corporate scandals, within and beyond anti-corruption and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, (2) the transnational developments towards multi-level networked governance and self-regulation, or else, the emergence of regulatory capitalism and audit culture, (3) the increased costs connected to regulatory fines, settlements and reputational damages, (4) the rise of big data analytics, machine learning and natural language processing, (5) the increased push towards ESG and Sustainable investing and the related demand for data-driven monitoring, risk assessments, and benchmarking, and (6) further expansion of the paradigm of “corporate/global ethics” and “compliance culture” as having quality compliance systems can result in reduction of regulatory fines in some jurisdictions. RegTech promises to cut costs and deliver integrated solutions spanning regulatory monitoring, rapid identification of regulatory obligations, integrated and up-to date compliance management platforms and workflow systems, expanded possibilities for monitoring, surveillance and internal risk and threat assessments, and other services within KYC, AML, beneficial ownership tracking, identification, authorization, verification, and more. Compliance has, with the increased focus on technological solutions, ethics, and corporate culture, moved over the past decade from being housed in an often disconnected, minor department to becoming integral to corporate governance and management systems. The recent ISO 37301:2021 Compliance Management Systems is a manifestation of this development, now further reinforced by such standardization. In the industry language, compliance is now coming from the top and becoming a part of the “DNA of the organization.” This development was touted by Volkov Law Group CEO Michael Volkov as “the biggest revolution in corporate governance.”
In this talk, I will argue that it is high time that we pay critical attention to this increasing power of the compliance industry, now magnified by the technological possibilities for surveillance, monitoring, automated decision making and prediction. Compliance is best understood within the framework of pluralization and privatization of policing: starting from corruption and money laundering via inappropriate behaviours to breaches of ethical codes, compliance is instrumental in internal policing, investigation and sanctioning of both legal and ethical breaches, but even critical utterances, increasingly blurring the boundaries between the legal and the ethical and resulting in the hybridization of criminal law and/or imitation thereof and the undermining of the rule of law for those subject to private investigations. While Human Resource Management (HRM) has contributed to the individualisation and psychologization of workplace relations, compliance, as I will argue, is now increasingly being integrated into and even taking over these systems, resulting in further juridification and brutalization of workplace relations. The rhetoric of “intelligence”, “forensic evidence”, “interrogations”, “investigations”, “threat assessments” and so forth, which borrows from the language of the police and the military, lurks behind the glossy brochures about “ethical corporate culture” and is embedded into the digital compliance systems, which, too, imitate predictive policing and other AI-driven intelligence tools. The legal, social, political, and ethical challenges connected to these developments are thus further amplified by the automation these systems. The question is: what is at stake in this automation, privatization, and hybridization of criminal law for us as citizens, employees, and society at large?
Tereza Østbø Kuldova is a Research Professor at the Work Research Institute, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway. She holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Oslo and is the author of How Outlaws Win Friends and Influence People (Palgrave, 2019), Luxury Indian Fashion: A Social Critique (Bloomsbury, 2016), co-editor of Crime, Harm and Consumerism (Routledge, 2020), Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and Street Gangs (Palgrave, 2018), Urban Utopias: Excess and Expulsion in Neoliberal South Asia (Palgrave, 2017). Additionally, she has published numerous articles in journals such as Trends in Organized Crime, Visual Anthropology, Journal of Design History, Cultural Politics and more, and contributed chapters to Oxford Handbooks and other edited volumes. Her latest academic monograph in Norwegian, co-authored with Bitten Nordrik, dealt with investigative methods in Norwegian workplaces Faktaundersøkelser: et “hybrid konfliktvåpen” på norske arbeidsplasser (Fact-finding Investigations: A “Hybrid Conflict Weapon” in Norwegian Workplaces, Gyldendal Akademisk, 2021). She currently works on algorithmic and global governance, surveillance, and artificial intelligence, organized white-collar crime and corruption, the compliance industry, and the pluralization of policing. Currently, she leads a Young Research Talents project, Luxury, Corruption and Global Ethics: Towards a Critical Cultural Theory of the Moral Economy of Fraud, funded by the Norwegian Research Council. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Extreme Anthropology and of the Algorithmic Governance Research Network.
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