What is it?We understand corporate capture as the influence exerted — legally or illegally — by a private economic elite, particularly large corporations, over State functions, policies, laws, and resources.

Themain characteristicsof corporate capture are:

  • This concept shifts the focus from the State as the object of capture to the corporation or economic elite as the subject exerting undue influence. Thus, corporate capture is distinguishable from similar terms such as “State capture” or “political capture.”
  • The pressure exerted on the State extends beyond small-scale corruption and leads to the consolidation of corporate power, which results in economic benefits for the wealthy while undermining the public interest.
  • It has negative implications for democratic governance worldwide, but its consequences on issues of underdevelopment, income inequality, and human rights are even more severe in the Global South.

Through various forms of capture, the economic elite gains control of the State and shapes the “rules of the game” in its favor, thereby weakening public institutions. Some of themain mechanismsof corporate capture are:

  • Lobbying or influencing publicofficials and legislators to adopt public policies and laws that favor the interests of the economic elite.
  • Therevolving doorrefers to the movement from positions in the government to those in the private sector, and vice versa. Individuals who transition between these sectors bring with them contacts and privileged information, thereby increasing the influence of corporations.
  • Thepayment of bribesto public officials and judges in order to secure substantial benefits, such as public contracts or favorable judicial rulings for private entities.
  • Theprivatization of State assets,such as the sale of State-owned enterprises or the concession of public services to private companies, involves the transfer of public resources into private hands.
  • Regulatory chill,or the pressure exerted through lawsuits in national and international tribunals to dissuade states from implementing policies or legislation that affect business interests.
  • Ideological captureoccurs when universities, scientific research centers, or media outlets are co-opted to propagate a narrative that legitimizes the power of the economic elite.

At Empower, we specialize in understanding and tracking corporate capture, and assisting civil society organizations and social movements to combat it. Here, we provide an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon, its main manifestations, and mechanisms. Additionally, we present areas of opportunity and strategic innovations implemented by civil society to counteract it.

Economic elite, we have you in our sights

As a result of research conducted by Empower, we have compiled a report where we outline our understanding of corporate capture and present a summary of our key findings. Accompanying this report is a reference document where readers can delve deeper into our findings, including specific cases and examples. Both documents are available for download at this site.

For our analysis, we prioritize countries in the Global South where the effects of capture are often more severe, given the threats it poses to national sovereignty and its collusion with authoritarian regimes. Additionally, we highlight the risks of corporate capture within the energy transition, which is positioned as a solution to arguably the greatest threat humanity faces today: the climate crisis.

How to understand and end corporate capture

These are some of themost common manifestationsof corporate capture, as well as some of themost innovative strategiesto address it. Anyone looking to delve further into these topics can refer to the downloadable report and reference document, which provide additional details, examples, and specific cases. Click on the buttons to open the menu for each topic, where you’ll find an explanation with links to information sources.