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Conflicts of Interest, Reputation, and the Interwar Debt Crisis: Banksters or Bad Luck?


  • Flandreau, Marc
  • Gaillard, Norbert
  • Panizza, Ugo


This paper builds a new dataset with detailed information on the universe of foreign government bonds issued in New York in the 1920s and uses these data to describe the behavior of the financial intermediaries which operated in the New York market during the period leading to the interwar debt crisis. The paper starts by showing that concerns over reputation played an important role in intermediaries’ underwriting choices. Next, the paper checks whether banks managed to charge abnormal underwriting fees on bonds that would eventually default and finds no evidence of such practice ("banksterism"). The paper concludes by discussing some parallels between the experience of the 1920s and the current debate on the "originate and distribute" model.

Suggested Citation

  • Flandreau, Marc & Gaillard, Norbert & Panizza, Ugo, 2010. "Conflicts of Interest, Reputation, and the Interwar Debt Crisis: Banksters or Bad Luck?," CEPR Discussion Papers 7705, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7705

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marc Flandreau & Juan H. Flores & Norbert Gaillard & Sebastián Nieto-Parra, 2010. "The End of Gatekeeping: Underwriters and the Quality of Sovereign Bond Markets, 1815-2007," NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 53-92.
    2. Flandreau, Marc & Gaillard, Norbert & Packer, Frank, 2009. "Ratings Performance, Regulation and the Great Depression: Lessons from Foreign Government Securities," CEPR Discussion Papers 7328, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Eichengreen, Barry, 1996. "Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195101133, June.
    4. João Santos, 1998. "Commercial Banks in the Securities Business: A Review," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 14(1), pages 35-60, July.
    5. Carosso, Vincent P., 1973. "The Wall Street Money Trust from Pujo through Medina," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(04), pages 421-437, December.
    6. Booth, James R. & Smith, Richard II, 1986. "Capital raising, underwriting and the certification hypothesis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1-2), pages 261-281.
    7. J. Bradford De Long, 1990. "Did J.P. Morgan's Men Add Value? A Historical Perspective on Financial Capitalism," NBER Working Papers 3426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Megginson, William L & Weiss, Kathleen A, 1991. " Venture Capitalist Certification in Initial Public Offerings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(3), pages 879-903, July.
    9. Michaely, Roni & Shaw, Wayne H, 1994. "The Pricing of Initial Public Offerings: Tests of Adverse-Selection and Signaling Theories," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 7(2), pages 279-319.
    10. Carl Shapiro, 1983. "Premiums for High Quality Products as Returns to Reputations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(4), pages 659-679.
    11. Ramirez, Carlos D, 2002. "Did Banks' Security Affiliates Add Value? Evidence from the Commercial Banking Industry during the 1920s," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 34(2), pages 393-411, May.
    12. Chemmanur, Thomas J & Fulghieri, Paolo, 1994. " Investment Bank Reputation, Information Production, and Financial Intermediation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(1), pages 57-79, March.
    13. Flandreau, Marc & Flores, Juan H., 2009. "Bonds and Brands: Foundations of Sovereign Debt Markets, 1820–1830," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 646-684, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yann Decorzant & Juan Flores, 2012. "Public borrowing in harsh times: The Leagues of Nations loans revisited," Research Papers by the Institute of Economics and Econometrics, Geneva School of Economics and Management, University of Geneva 12091, Institut d'Economie et Econométrie, Université de Genève.
    2. Marc Flandreau, 2013. "Sovereign states, bondholders committees, and the London Stock Exchange in the nineteenth century (1827–68): new facts and old fictions," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 668-696, WINTER.
    3. Flandreau, Marc, 2017. "Reputation, Regulation and the Collapse of International Capital Markets, 1920-1935," CEPR Discussion Papers 11747, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Bradley, Michael & De Lira Salvatierra, Irving & Gulati, Mitu, 2014. "Lawyers: Gatekeepers of the sovereign debt market?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(S), pages 150-168.
    5. Marc Flandreau & Juan Flores & Norbert Gaillard & Sebastian Nieto-Parra, 2011. "The Changing Role of Global Financial Brands in the Underwriting of Foreign Government Debt (1815-2010)," IHEID Working Papers 15-2011, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    6. Marc Flandreau, 2013. "Collective Action Clauses before they had Airplanes: Bondholder Committees and the London Stock Exchange in the 19th Century (1827-1868)," IHEID Working Papers 01-2013, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.

    More about this item


    conflicts of interest; debt crises; reputation;

    JEL classification:

    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation


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