Private Cops on the Fraud Beat: The Limits of American Business Self-Regulation, 1895-1932

Journal Article

AbstractFrom the late 1890s through the 1920s, a new set of nonprofit, business-funded organizations spearheaded an American campaign against commercial duplicity. These new organizations shaped the legal terrain of fraud, built massive public-education campaigns, and created a private law-enforcement capacity to rival that of the federal government. Largely born out of a desire among business elites to fend off proposals for extensive regulatory oversight of commercial speech, the antifraud crusade grew into a social movement that was influenced by prevailing ideas about social hygiene and emerging techniques of private governance. This initiative highlighted some enduring strengths of business self-regulation, such as agility in responding to regulatory problems; it also revealed a key weakness, which was the tendency to overlook deceptive marketing when practiced by firms that were members of the business establishment.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Balleisen, EJ

Published Date

  • 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 83 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 113 - 160

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2044-768X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0007-6805

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/s0007680500000222


  • en