Building blocks: a historical sociology of the innovation and regulation of exchange traded funds in the United States, 1970-2000
Ruggins, Sarah Marie Elizabeth
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Between 1993 and 2016, the U.S. exchange traded fund (ETF) market has proliferated from one product worth $6.5 million USD to 1,455 products worth over $2 trillion USD. Despite its dramatic growth, the ETF market has yet to be the subject of sociological inquiry even though fields such as the social studies of finance have begun examining the origins of index derivatives (Millo 2007), options (MacKenzie 2006), hedge funds (Hardie and MacKenzie 2007), and foreign exchange markets (Knorr Cetina and Bruegger 2002). Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to provide the first historical sociology of ETF innovation in the United States, using an approach inspired by the social studies of finance. This project empirically traces the emergence of the ETF by compiling an account of precursory strategies, concept development, regulatory negotiations, and early product marketing. The concept of agencement is used to frame the historical narrative of the ETF as a product of two distinct assemblages that formed in the U.S. between 1970 and 2000: first, the socio-technical integration between humans and their technologies that affected trading strategies, and second, the collaborative relationships that were formed between innovators and regulators. The mixed qualitative research consists of 36 interviews triangulated with archival records, documents sourced through Freedom of Information Act requests, private collections, and government files. Concluding analysis suggests that strategies foreshadowing the ETF began to emerge as early as the 1970s, and innovator-regulator collaborations were integral to early product qualification - a process not yet explored in literature on financial regulation.