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Enforcement Networks

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Policy and academic debates often depict agencies as siloed, in solitary pursuit of their own statutory mandates. But such views overlook an important reality. Agencies do not work alone, but in fact exercise power via networks, in tandem with other federal and state agencies as well as foreign powers. While agencies have relied on networks for decades, the study of coordinated agency action has been slow to catch up. This inattention is particularly acute for enforcement, which can be a black box, with much of enforcement activity taking place outside of the public view.

This Article takes a novel approach to investigating how domestic and international agencies coordinate in civil investigation and enforcement. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) often acknowledges coordination when it announces its enforcement actions, noting that it “appreciates the assistance of” or “thanks the following agencies for their cooperation and assistance.” The Article uses these acknowledgments to develop a tool— “automated acknowledgment indexing”—for evaluating and quantifying agency networks. Analyzing more than two decades of SEC acknowledgments (1998–2018) reveals a complicated network of domestic and international agencies. The study offers a window into the SEC’s enforcement network, with implications for agency practices and structures, and models a tool for analyzing agency networks more generally.

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