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Did J.P. Morgan's Men Add Value? A Historical Perspective on Financial Capitalism


  • J. Bradford De Long


The pre-WWI period saw the heyday of "financial capitalism" in the United States: the concentration of securities issues in the hands of a few investment bankers which had substantial representation on corporate boards of directors. This form of organization had costs: it created a conflict of interest that allowed investment bankers to heavily tax operating corporations. It also had benefits: investment banker representation on boards allowed bankers to monitor the performance of firm managers, quickly replace mangers whose performance was unsatisfactory, and signal to ultimate investors that a company was well managed and fundamentally sound. The presence on one's board of directors of a partner in J.P Morgan and Co. was associated with a rise of perhaps 30 percent in common stock equity value. Some share of the increase in value almost surely arose because investment banker representation on the boards of competing companies aided the formation of oligopoly. But the development of similar institutions in other countries that like the Gilded Age U.S. experienced exceptionally rapid economic growth-Germany and Japan are the most prominent examples-suggests that a substantial share of value added may have arisen because "financial capitalism" improved the functioning of financial markets as social capital allocation mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3426
    Note: ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Takeo Hoshi & Anil Kashyap & David Scharfstein, 1990. "Bank Monitoring and Investment: Evidence from the Changing Structure of Japanese Corporate Banking Relationships," NBER Chapters, in: Asymmetric Information, Corporate Finance, and Investment, pages 105-126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Takeo Hoshi & Anil K. Kashyap & David Scharfstein, 1989. "Bank monitoring and investment: evidence from the changing structure of Japanese corporate banking relations," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 86, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    Blog mentions

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    1. Moral Hazard: A Primer
      by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2017-09-25 17:57:58


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    Cited by:

    1. Giacinta Cestone, 1999. "Corporate Financing and Product Market Competition: An Overview," CSEF Working Papers 18, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    2. Giacinta Cestone & Lucy White, "undated". "Anti-Competitive Financial Contracting: The Design Of Financial Claims," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 453.00, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
    3. Jagannathan, Murali & Jiao, Wei & Krishnamurthy, Srinivasan, 2020. "Missing them yet? Investment banker directors in the 21st century," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 60(C).
    4. Marc Flandreau & Norbert Gaillard & Ugo Panizza, 2009. "Conflicts of Interest, Reputation and the Interwar Debt Crisis: Banksters or Bad Luck?," IHEID Working Papers 02-2010, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies, revised Feb 2010.

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