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Library of the University of Amsterdam (Potgieterzaal C0.01). Title: "Regulatory Enforcement Styles and Compliance".

Event details of ACLE Compliance and Enforcement Seminar: Søren Winter (SFI, Danish National Centre for Social Research)
Date 6 May 2013
Time 11:45 -13:15
Location Universiteitsbibliotheek
Room Library of the University of Amsterdam - Potgieterzaal C0.01


The realities of regulation are shaped by the choices made by regulatory agencies about the approach to regulatory enforcement and of inspectors at the frontlines of regulatory enforcement about what to enforce and how to enforce it. This chapter considers these choices and their effects with attention to the variation in agency enforcement approaches, inspectors’ enforcement styles, and the implications of these for regulatory compliance. The chapter is a synthesis of the literature about these topics in drawing out key conceptual distinctions, central findings, and considerations for future research.

A key distinction is between the choices made by regulatory agencies and the actions at the front lines. The former includes decisions by regulatory agencies about what to enforce, how to allocate resources for inspections, and intended regulatory stringency. The literature treats these agency-level decisions as one aspect of enforcement styles for which we argue a better label is enforcement philosophy. Examples of this literature include studies by Braithwaite and colleagues in classifying different approaches used by Australian regulatory agencies and by Day and Klein in studying enforcement of nursing home regulations.

The approaches of regulatory inspectors in their day-to-day dealings with regulated entities constitute the realities of enforcement styles. We consider conceptualizations of enforcement styles in arguing the research suggests more is involved than the degree of stringency of enforcement. This leads to consideration of variation in different enforcement styles and the factors that affect that variation. This draws heavily on prior work by us, while incorporating more recent studies about enforcement styles.

Variation in enforcement styles means little unless it can be shown to affect compliance either directly or indirectly. We consider the empirical evidence about the effects of different enforcement styles with attention to distinctions in regulatory settings, repeated versus one-shot inspections, the responsiveness of regulated entities to enforcement approaches, and attributes of regulated entities (e.g., their knowledge and attitudes). This discussion highlights the limited impacts of differences in enforcement styles in directly affecting compliance with greater impacts in affecting such things as regulated entities knowledge of rules and awareness of the legitimacy of rules.

We conclude with discussion of unresolved issues and methodological considerations. This includes discussion of the practical aspects of shaping what happens at the front lines and the limits of cross-sectional surveys in capturing variation in enforcement styles.

Description of the seminar topic:

The presentation will primarily focus on regulatory enforcement styles and compliance based on the following chapter, Explaining Compliance: Business Responses to Regulation:

Peter J. May and Søren C. Winter (2011). "Regulatory Enforcement Styles and Compliance." In Christine Parker and Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen (eds.), Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011, pp. 222-244. (see abstract above).

However, the lecture will also present some additional research findings where the regulatory enforcement style concepts of formalism and coercion have also been applied to research on street-level bureaucratic behaviors in social policy implementation.


Søren C. Winter is a professor of Political Science and Public Administration at SFI – The Danish National Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen, Denmark. His publications focus on regulatory enforcement and compliance, social policy implementation, and public management. Read more on Søren C. Winter on his personal page.


Room Library of the University of Amsterdam - Potgieterzaal C0.01

Singel 425
1012 WP Amsterdam