A pyramid of regulatory strategies and/or sanctions where often the law’s role is claimed to operate most effectively when its threat is present but largely hidden.
(Morgan, Branwen and Karen Yeung. 2007. An Introduction to Law and Regulation: Texts and Materials. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 340.)
Escalation up this pyramid gives the state greater capacity to enforce compliance but at the cost of increasingly inflexible and adversarial regulation. Clear communication in advance of willingness by the state to escalate up the pyramid gives incentives to both the industry and regulatory agents to make regulation work at lower levels of interventionism. The key contention of this regulatory theory is that the existence of the gradients and peaks of the [two] enforcement pyramids channels most of the regulatory action to the base of the pyramid in the realms of persuasion and self-regulation.