Corporate political activity agents: Understanding how firms use expert consultants to exchange information with regulators of risky products (M.Phil Final)

Event details


Date & time

Thursday 08 November 2018


Seminar Room 1.13, Coombs Extension Building #8, ANU
ANU Canberra


Lisa Buffinton


School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet)

Lisa’s thesis contributes to understanding how firms use expert consultants to exchange information with regulators of risky products. This topic has been extensively investigated regarding the Tobacco Industry, but is less understood in relation to the Alcohol Industry. Alcohol shares similarities with Tobacco as a legal, widely-consumed yet disease-bearing product that is regulated to influence the incidence of harms [1; 2]. Submissions to Australian government regulators reveal that liquor retailers have used expert consultants to resist harm prevention policies which restrict alcohol availability and promotion [3].

Three analyses were performed to explore this topic. First, an extensive literature review examines current knowledge on the corporate political activities (CPA) of industries who are specially regulated to mitigate health risks [4]. Second, a taxonomy – which builds on the work of Lisa Bero [5] – was developed to define how the Tobacco Industry used expert consultants [4; 6]. Third, to expand on the work of Javid Jernigan, Jenny White and Lisa Bero, this taxonomy was applied to three regulatory cases where an Australian alcohol retailer used expert consultants [7; 8].

Lisa’s thesis found four dimensions to the use of expert consultants for CPA purposes (composed of 23 characteristics): distinct motivating factors (motivators), strategic and tactical CPA approaches to using expert consultants, and the distinct attributes of CPA expert consultants. This thesis also found significant parallels between the Tobacco and Alcohol Industries in their use of Expert Consultants for CPA.

Lisa’s thesis concludes that Industrial expert consultants are not disinterested authorities on the subjects for which their services are commissioned. Rather, they are agents of their industrial sponsor’s political interests. Consequently, any information they produce and submit to regulators should be treated with scepticism and made publicly-available to support transparent policy-making.

Abstract references
  1. Collin, D.J. and H.M. Lapsley, The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society 2004/2005. 2008, Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra.
  2. Laslett, A.-M., et al., The range and magnitude of alcohol’s harm to others. 2010: Fitzroy, Victoria.
  3. Giorgi, C. and A. Ferguson, Shopper dockets – the OLGR investigation, in DrinkTank. 2014, Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education: Online.
  4. Grant, M.J. and A. Booth, A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J, 2009. 26(2): p. 91-108.
  5. Bero, L.A., Tobacco industry manipulation of research. Public Health Reports, 2005. 120(2): p. 200-208.
  6. Ritchie, J. and L. Spencer, Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research, in The Qualitative Researchers’ Companion, A.M. Huberman and M.B. Miles (Editors). 2002, SAGE: Thousand Oaks, CA. p. 305-329.
  7. White, J. and L.A. Bero, Corporate Manipulation of Research: Strategies Are Similar across Five Industries. Stanford Law & Policy Review, 2010. 21(105): p. 133.
  8. Jernigan, D.H., Global alcohol producers, science, and policy: The case of the international center for alcohol policies. American Journal of Public Health, 2012. 102: p. 80-89.

About the speaker

Lisa Buffinton is a M.Phil candidate who joined RegNet in 2017 to examine industry tactics to resist public health policies. Graduating in 2012 a double bachelor degree in Commerce (International Business) and Arts (Political Science), Lisa went on to work as a Policy Officer for the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and as a Management Consultant at Ernst & Young. Lisa’s RegNet M.Phil research project studies how and why private industries use expert consultants to exchange information with regulatory authorities; and how this practice may influence policy developments concerning product risks.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet