How Brazilian prosecutors enforce labor and environmental laws: The organizational basis of creative problem-solving

Coslovsky, S.
Regulation and Governance (special issue)

Brazil's 8,000 prosecutors sit at the crux of the country's legal system, deciding who gets indicted and sued for common crimes and a wide array of civil violations. In many cases, particularly those concerning the most recalcitrant labor and environmental violations, prosecutors realize that compliance is not only a matter of avarice or ignorance. To the opposite, in these cases compliance requires costly and risky changes in business practices that the managers of the implicated firms are unwilling or unable to carry out on their own. Rather than prosecute, which they anticipate will eliminate jobs and undermine business profitability, or clarify the law, which they fear will be futile, prosecutors reach out and assemble a network of institutions willing to cover some of the costs and insure some of the risks associated with these changes. Ultimately, they lead an effort of inter-institutional root-cause analysis and joint-problem solving, and through this endeavor they make compliance the easiest and most obvious choice for all involved. This paper briefly describes this kind of creative problem-solving and then it analyzes how this government agency encourages and sustains this kind of deviant practice within its ranks.

Wagner Faculty