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This is the first academic work to show the need for, or to offer, a regulatory framework for exchange-traded funds ("ETFs"). The economic significance of this financial innovation is enormous. U.S.-listed ETFs now hold more than $3.6 trillion in assets and comprise seven of the country’s ten most actively traded securities. ETFs also possess an array of unique characteristics raising distinctive concerns. They offer what we here conceptualize as a nearly frictionless portal to a bewildering, continually expanding universe of plain vanilla and arcane asset classes, passive and active investment strategies, and long, short, and leveraged exposures. And we argue that ETFs are defined by a novel, model-driven device that we refer to as the "arbitrage mechanism," a device that has sometimes failed catastrophically. These new products and the underlying innovation process create special risks for investors and the financial system.
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