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Fire-Alarm Signals and the Political Oversight of Regulatory Agencies


  • Hopenhayn, Hugo
  • Lohmann, Susanne


In political settings, delegation is often motivated by differences in expertise of costs of information gathering. Even if a political principal is less well informed than a regulatory agency, she can monitor whether the agency is acting in her best interests by taking informational cues from the media, interest groups, and constituents. In response to such "fire-alarm" signals, the principal may engage in political oversight activities. This article examines how asymmetric external information flows give rise to asymmetric political control rules that introduce bias and inconsistency into regulatory outcomes. Copyright 1996 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Hopenhayn, Hugo & Lohmann, Susanne, 1996. "Fire-Alarm Signals and the Political Oversight of Regulatory Agencies," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 196-213, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:12:y:1996:i:1:p:196-213

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keith Head & John C. Ries & Deborah L. Swenson, 1994. "The Attraction of Foreign Manufacturing Investments: Investment Promotion and Agglomeration Economies," NBER Working Papers 4878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David Cutler, 1994. "Market Failure in Small Group Health Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heyes, Anthony & Kapur, Sandeep, 2009. "Enforcement missions: Targets vs budgets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 129-140, September.
    2. Fabio Padovano & Ilaria Petrarca, 2013. "When and how politicians take ‘scandalous’ decisions?," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 336-351, December.
    3. Hansson Lisa, 2012. "The Private Whistleblower: Defining a New Role in the Public Procurement System," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 14(2), pages 1-28, August.
    4. Swank Otto H., 2000. "Seeking information: the role of information providers in the policy decision process," Public Economics 0004004, EconWPA.
    5. Shi, Lan, 2009. "The limit of oversight in policing: Evidence from the 2001 Cincinnati riot," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 99-113, February.
    6. Alevy, Jonathan E., 2001. "A Principal-Agent Approach To The Delegation Of Regulatory Authority," 2001 Annual meeting, August 5-8, Chicago, IL 20764, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

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