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The Corporate Pyramid Fable


  • Steven A. Bank and Brian R. Cheffins

    (UCLA School of Law; Cambridge University)


Although corporate pyramids are currently commonplace world-wide and although there have been "noteworthy pyramiders" in American business history, this controversial form of corporate organization is now a rarity in the United States. The conventional wisdom is that corporate pyramids disappeared in the U.S. when New Deal policymakers began taxing dividends paid to corporate shareholders. This version of events is more fable than truth. The introduction of the intercorporate dividend tax did not foster a rapid dismantling of corporate pyramids. Instead, pyramidal arrangements were already rare in the U.S., other than in the utilities sector, and the demise of utility pyramids was prompted by the Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935 rather than tax reform.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven A. Bank and Brian R. Cheffins, 2010. "The Corporate Pyramid Fable," Business History Review, Harvard Business School, vol. 84(3), pages 435-458, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:journl:2010q3cheffins.pdf

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