Spoofing: Law, materiality and boundary work in futures trading

Donald MacKenzie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spoofing (canonically: ‘bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution’), once a valued skill in face-to-face trading, has become a crime punishable by jail. Echoing Riles’s call for greater attention to law in research on finance, this article analyzes the interwoven processes of this dramatic shift, including trading’s changing material form, contingencies such as the Congressional response to the global financial crisis, and, above all, the use of criminal (not just civil, administrative) law. Criminal law's particularly strong boundary work – specifically the first criminal indictment and jail sentence for spoofing – rendered earlier ambivalent attitudes and inconsistent enforcement untenable. Nevertheless, drawing a boundary between spoofing and legitimate trading remains work-in-progress, with simultaneously legal, material and moral dimensions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomy and Society
Early online date30 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2021


  • spoofing
  • social studies of finance
  • law
  • trading pits
  • high-frequency trading
  • market surveillance


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