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Voting Rights, Share Concentration, and Leverage at Nineteenth-Century US Banks


  • Howard Bodenhorn


Studies of corporate governance are concerned with two features of modern shareholding: diffuse ownership and the resulting separation of ownership and control, which potentially leads to managerial self-dealing; and, majority shareholding, which potentially mitigates some managerial self-dealing but opens the door for the expropriation of minority shareholders. This paper provides a study of the second issue for nineteenth-century US corporations. It investigates two related questions. First, did voting rules that limited the control rights of large shareholders encourage diffuse ownership? It did. Second, did diffuse ownership systematically alter bank risk taking? It did. Banks with less concentrated ownership followed policies that reduced liquidity and bankruptcy risk.

Suggested Citation

  • Howard Bodenhorn, 2012. "Voting Rights, Share Concentration, and Leverage at Nineteenth-Century US Banks," NBER Working Papers 17808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17808
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guinnane, Timothy & Harris, Ron & Lamoreaux, Naomi R. & Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent, 2007. "Putting the Corporation in its Place," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 687-729, September.
    2. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1986. "Large Shareholders and Corporate Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 461-488, June.
    3. Mike Burkart & Samuel Lee, 2008. "One Share - One Vote: the Theory," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 12(1), pages 1-49.
    4. Hilt, Eric, 2008. "When did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 645-685, September.
    5. Morck, Randall & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1988. "Management ownership and market valuation," Scholarly Articles 29407535, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    6. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "Law and Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1113-1155, December.
    7. Jan Bena & Jan Hanousek, 2008. "Rent Extraction by Large Shareholders: Evidence Using Dividend Policy in the Czech Republic," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 58(03-04), pages 106-130, May.
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    9. N/A, 1996. "Note:," Foreign Trade Review, , vol. 31(1-2), pages 1-1, January.
    10. Meissner, Christopher M., 2005. "Voting rules and the success of connected lending in 19th century New England banks," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 509-528, October.
    11. Bodenhorn, Howard, 2002. "State Banking in Early America: A New Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195147766.
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    Cited by:

    1. Acheson, Graeme G. & Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John D., 2016. "Common law and the origin of shareholder protection," eabh Papers 16-03, The European Association for Banking and Financial History (EABH).
    2. Howard Bodenhorn & Eugene N. White, 2014. "The Evolution of Bank Boards of Directors in New York, 1840–1950," NBER Chapters,in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 107-145 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions

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