IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Business Groups in the United States: A Revised History of Corporate Ownership, Pyramids and Regulation, 1930-1950

Listed author(s):
  • Kandel, Eugene
  • Kosenko, Konstantin
  • Morck, Randall
  • Yafeh, Yishay
Registered author(s):

    The extent to which business groups ever existed in the United States and, if they did exist, the reasons for their disappearance are poorly understood. In this paper we use hitherto unexplored historical sources to construct a comprehensive data set to address this issue. We find that (1) business groups, often organized as pyramids, existed at least as early as the turn of the twentieth century and became a common corporate form in the 1930s and 1940s, mostly in public utilities (e.g., electricity, gas and transportation) but also in manufacturing; (2) In contrast with modern business groups in emerging markets that are typically diversified and tightly controlled, many US groups were focused in a single sector and controlled by apex firms with dispersed ownership; (3) The disappearance of US business groups was largely complete only in 1950, about 15 years after the major anti-group policy measures of the mid-1930s; (4) Chronologically, the demise of business groups preceded the emergence of conglomerates in the United States by about two decades and the sharp increase in stock market valuation by about a decade, so that a causal link between these events is hard to establish, although there may well be a connection between them. We conclude that the prevalence of business groups is not inconsistent with high levels of investor protection; that US corporate ownership as we know it today evolved gradually over several decades; and that policy makers should not expect policies that restrict business groups to have an immediate effect on corporate ownership.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=9759
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at subscribers@cepr.org

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9759.

    as
    in new window

    Length:
    Date of creation: Nov 2013
    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9759
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ.

    Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
    Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820

    Order Information: Email:


    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as
    in new window


    1. Julian Franks & Colin Mayer & Hideaki Miyajima, 2014. "The Ownership of Japanese Corporations in the 20th Century," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 27(9), pages 2580-2625.
    2. Khanna, Tarun & Thomas, Catherine, 2009. "Synchronicity and firm interlocks in an emerging market," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(2), pages 182-204, May.
    3. Boyan Jovanovic & Peter L. Rousseau, 2003. "Two Technological Revolutions," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 419-428, 04/05.
    4. Tarun Khanna & Krishna Palepu, 2000. "Is Group Affiliation Profitable in Emerging Markets? An Analysis of Diversified Indian Business Groups," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(2), pages 867-891, 04.
    5. Grandy, Christopher, 1989. "New Jersey Corporate Chartermongering, 1875–1929," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 677-692, September.
    6. Eric Hilt, 2014. "History of American Corporate Governance: Law, Institutions, and Politics," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 1-21, December.
    7. Fan, Joseph P H & Lang, Larry H P, 2000. "The Measurement of Relatedness: An Application to Corporate Diversification," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73(4), pages 629-660, October.
    8. Paul G. Mahoney, 2012. "The Public Utility Pyramids," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 37-66.
    9. Barca, Fabrizio & Becht, Marco (ed.), 2001. "The Control of Corporate Europe," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247424.
    10. Craswell, Allen T. & Taylor, Stephen L. & Saywell, Richard A., 1997. "Ownership structure and corporate performance: Australian evidence," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 301-323, July.
    11. Servaes, Henri, 1996. " The Value of Diversification during the Conglomerate Merger Wave," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(4), pages 1201-1225, September.
    12. Navin, Thomas R., 1970. "The 500 Largest American Industrials in 1917," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(03), pages 360-386, September.
    13. Belén Villalonga & Raphael Amit, 2009. "How Are U.S. Family Firms Controlled?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(8), pages 3047-3091, August.
    14. Marco Becht & Fabrizio Barca, 2001. "The control of corporate Europe," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/13302, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9759. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.