Is Warren right to call regulatory capture a “big deal”? In some contexts, she probably is. (Financial regulation, her primary concern, may well be an example.) But overall, the research offers a mixed verdict , and a look at what agencies have actually done raises the possibility that the problem is overstated. As of this writing, the Obama administration has issued 3,825 significant rules.1 Of these, no less than 833 are “economically significant,” meaning that they have had an economic impact of more than $100 million per year. How does that fit with the claim that regulators have been captured by regulated industries? Would captured agencies really issue hundreds of significant regulations per year, imposing billions of dollars in annual regulatory costs?
Warren is right to ask about all those meetings with affected industries. But agencies often meet with companies not to do their bidding, but to alert them to what’s coming, to obtain relevant information, and to try to build support (or reduce opposition). So the frequency of meetings by itself isn’t evidence of regulatory capture. What matters, in the end, is what’s done.