Strategic statutory interpretation by administrative agencies

Yehonatan Givati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Many statutes are administered by administrative agencies. This paper shows that, when interpreting an ambiguous statute, administrative agencies choose between two strategies of statutory interpretation: the risky strategy, a relatively aggressive interpretation that provokes an appeal by the firm; and the safe strategy, a relatively nonaggressive interpretation that the firm complies with. The paper also shows that a change in the level of judicial deference may result in a shift from the risky strategy to the safe one, or vice versa. Therefore, contrary to the commonly held view, an increase in the level of judicial deference may result in agencies choosing a less aggressive statutory interpretation, and in more court decisions reversing agencies' statutory interpretation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)95-115
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Law and Economics Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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