Self-regulation and government oversight

Peter M. DeMarzo*, Michael J. Fishman, Kathleen M. Hagerty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Self-regulation is a feature of a number of professions. For example, in the U.S. the government delegates aspects of financial market regulation to self-regulatory organizations (SROs) like the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers. We analyse one regulatory task of an SRO, enforcing antifraud rules so agents will not cheat customers. Specifically, we model contracting/enforcement as a two-tier problem. An SRO chooses its enforcement policy: the likelihood that an agent is investigated for fraud and a penalty schedule. Given an enforcement policy, agents compete by offering contracts that maximize customers' expected utility. We assume that the SRO's objective is to maximize the welfare of its members, the agents. We show that the SRO chooses a more lax enforcement policy - meaning less frequent investigations - than what customers would choose. A general conclusion is that control of the enforcement policy governing contracts confers substantial market power to a group of otherwise competitive agents. We also investigate government oversight of the self-regulatory process. The threat of government enforcement leads to more enforcement by the SRO, just enough to pre-empt any government enforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-706
Number of pages20
JournalReview of Economic Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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