Current issues and trends in regulation of corporate crimes in Australia
In Australia, corporate crime is covered by the category of the white collar crimes and can be broadly defined as crime committed within the course of one’s occupation by individuals of relatively high social status. However, in contrast to those white collar offenses which are committed against companies, such as embezzlement or misuse of personal computers, corporate crimes include offences perpetrated by companies or their agents against members of the public, creditors, investors or corporate competitors.
In most cases, corporate crimes have deliberate nature, such as fraudulent billing of the government for examinations that have never been performed, or winding back the odometer in order to deceive prospective customers. In addition to this, a great variety of corporate crimes is connected with recklessness, negligence, or inattention to detail.
In elaborating further, corporate crimes in Australia may be classified in accordance with specificity of a field in which the crimes are committed. Thus, legal experts and criminal lawyers usually categorise corporate crimes as security crimes, tax crimes, crimes in the field of safety and occupational health, environmental crimes, consumer crimes, food standards, restrictive trade practices, economic offences against employees, discriminatory practices, etc.
In view of the aforesaid diversity of corporate crimes, it is essential to highlight the key trends and issues in corporate crime control under Australian law. In this connection, regulatory activity of Australian law enforcement authorities constitutes the first and foremost type of corporate crime control. The fact is that the current regulatory effort of Australian law enforcement bodies is expected to make workplaces, environment and market safer. However, it is also possible to perceive much criticism in respect of Australian regulatory agencies as allegedly inefficient bodies of corporate crime control. This is partially explained by the lack of political leadership in this field.
One dominant argument is that the current climate of economic uncertainty prevents most governments of Australia from willingly jeopardising economic recovery by intimidating or antagonising business in Australia. Another argument is that ministerial intervention to prevent prosecutions of corporate offenders from legal proceedings is not uncommon. Also, the secrecy which envelops the regulatory process in general, and prosecution of corporate criminal cases in particular, effectively diminishes or eliminates public scrutiny and assists the progress of perpetuating discussions of the regulatory process which are long on rhetoric and symbols, and short on substance.
Legal framework for corporate crime regulation in Australia
There is a wide spectrum of federal, state and territory criminal laws that regulate corporate crimes in Australia. To start with, it needs to be mentioned that each state and territory of Australia has its own criminal legislation, additionally to federal criminal laws.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the respective state/territory prosecution offices are responsible for enforcing the laws. Thus, Corporations Act 2001 contains civil and criminal provisions that relate to financial services providers and corporations. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission operate as the enforcer of the Corporations Act. Besides, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (also known as Australian Consumer Law) has provisions regarding criminal and civil proceedings in regard to fair trade, competition and consumer protection. Another federal legislation that regulates corporate crimes in Australia includes the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and the Taxation Administration Act 1953. These laws contain criminal and civil provisions pertaining to tax avoidance.