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Do the English Legal Origin Countries have more dispersed Share Ownership and more developed financial Systems?


  • Prabirjit Sarkar


The essence of the legal origin hypothesis is that a country with an English legal origin provides better investor and creditor protection and experiences greater financial development; financial institutions and stock markets flourish, the general public participate more in financing investment projects of companies and so shareholding is less concentrated. The present paper examines this hypothesis on the basis of a cross-country study of 85 countries. We find no evidence of more dispersed share ownership in the English law countries than in other countries with different legal origins irrespective of whether we adjust for the existence of transitional economies and less developed countries present in the sample. Using three indicators of development of banking and other credit institutions and four indicators of stock market developments, we also find no evidence of more developed financial systems in the English law countries. As expected, there is some evidence of lower financial development in the less developed countries and transitional countries. It is not the English law heritage but the security of persons and goods that appears to explain the cross-country variations in financial development.

Suggested Citation

  • Prabirjit Sarkar, 2008. "Do the English Legal Origin Countries have more dispersed Share Ownership and more developed financial Systems?," Working Papers wp375, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp375
    Note: PRO-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mathias Siems, 2007. "Shareholder Protection around the World ("Leximetric II")," Working Papers wp359, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    2. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Law and finance: why does legal origin matter?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 653-675, December.
    3. Levine, Ross & Zervos, Sara, 1998. "Stock Markets, Banks, and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 537-558, June.
    4. Jeremy S. S. Edwards & Alfons J. Weichenrieder, 2004. "Ownership Concentration and Share Valuation," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 5(2), pages 143-171, May.
    5. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Zingales, Luigi, 2003. "The great reversals: the politics of financial development in the twentieth century," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 5-50, July.
    6. Bekaert, Geert & Harvey, Campbell R. & Lundblad, Christian, 2005. "Does financial liberalization spur growth?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 3-55, July.
    7. Sonja Fagernäs & Prabirjit Sarkar & Ajit Singh, 2008. "Legal Origin, Shareholder Protection and the Stock Market: New Challenges from Time Series Analysis," Chapters,in: The Economics of Corporate Governance and Mergers, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. John Armour & Simon Deakin & Prabirjit Sarkar & Mathias Siems & Ajit Singh, 2007. "Shareholder Protection and Stock Market Development: An Empirical Test of the Legal Origins Hypothesis," Working Papers wp358, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    9. Antoin E. Murphy, 2004. "Corporate Ownership in France: The Importance of History," NBER Working Papers 10716, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Mathias Siems & Priya Lele, 2006. "Shareholder Protection: A Leximetric Approach," Working Papers wp324, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    11. Musacchio, Aldo, 2008. "Can Civil Law Countries Get Good Institutions? Lessons from the History of Creditor Rights and Bond Markets in Brazil," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(01), pages 80-108, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Armour, J. & Deakin, S. & Mollica, V. & Siems, M.M., 2010. "Law and Financial Development: What we are learning from time-series evidence," Working Papers wp399, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.

    More about this item


    Law and finance; legal origins; comparative law; share ownership;

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • P50 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - General

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