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The Economics of Badmouthing: Libel Law and the Underworld of the Financial Press in France before World War I


  • Vincent Bignon
  • Marc Flandreau


This article analyzes the economics of “badmouthing” in the context of the pre-1914 French capital market. We argue that badmouthing was a means through which racketeering journals sought to secure property rights over issuers’ reputation. We provide a theoretical study of the market setup that emerged to deal with such problems, and we test our predictions using new evidence from contemporary sources.

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  • Vincent Bignon & Marc Flandreau, 2010. "The Economics of Badmouthing: Libel Law and the Underworld of the Financial Press in France before World War I," EconomiX Working Papers 2010-18, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
  • Handle: RePEc:drm:wpaper:2010-18

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Djankov, Simeon & et al, 2003. "Who Owns the Media?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 341-381, October.
    2. Martin C. McGuire & Mancur Olson Jr., 1996. "The Economics of Autocracy and Majority Rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 72-96, March.
    3. 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 Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2009, pages 53-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Bignon, Vincent & Miscio, Antonio, 2010. "Media bias in financial newspapers: evidence from early twentieth-century France," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(03), pages 383-432, December.
    5. Alexander Dyck & Natalya Volchkova & Luigi Zingales, 2008. "The Corporate Governance Role of the Media: Evidence from Russia," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(3), pages 1093-1135, June.
    6. Matthew Gentzkow & Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Rise of the Fourth Estate. How Newspapers Became Informative and Why It Mattered," NBER Chapters,in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 187-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Great Reversals: The Politics of Financial Development in the 20th Century," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 265, OECD Publishing.
    8. John Mcmillan & Pablo Zoido, 2004. "How to Subvert Democracy: Montesinos in Peru," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 69-92, Fall.
    9. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Media Bias and Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(2), pages 280-316, April.
    10. 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.
    11. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
    12. Nuno Garoupa, 1999. "Dishonesty and Libel Law: The Economics of the "Chilling" Effect," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 155(2), pages 284-284, June.
    13. Maria Petrova, 2009. "Newspapers and Parties: How Advertising Revenues Created an Independent Press," Working Papers w0131, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    14. Albano, Gian Luigi & Lizzeri, Alessandro, 2001. "Strategic Certification and Provision of Quality," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(1), pages 267-283, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Vincent Bignon & Marc Flandreau, 2012. "The Price of Media Capture and the Looting of Newspapers in Interwar France," IHEID Working Papers 09-2012, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    2. Bakker, Gerben, 2014. "How they made news pay: news traders’ quest for crisis-resistant business models," Economic History Working Papers 59304, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    3. Balmer, Roberto, 2013. "Entry and Competition in Local Newspaper Retail Markets - When two are enough," MPRA Paper 54079, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Collet, Stéphanie & Oosterlinck, Kim, 2016. "Pricing the Odious in Odious Debts," CEPR Discussion Papers 11653, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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