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Universal Banks and Relationships with Firms

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  • Elsas, Ralf
  • Krahnen, Jan Pieter

Abstract

Some of the most widely expressed myths about the German financial system are concerned with the close ties and intensive interaction between banks and firms, often described as Hausbank relationships. Links between banks and firms include direct shareholdings, board representation, and proxy voting and are particularly significant for corporate governance. Allegedly, these relationships promote investment and improve the performance of firms. Furthermore, German universal banks are believed to play a special role as large and informed monitoring investors (shareholders). However, for the very same reasons, German universal banks are frequently accused of abusing their influence on firms by exploiting rents and sustaining the entrenchment of firms against efficient transfers of firm control. In this paper, we review recent empirical evidence regarding the special role of banks for the corporate governance of German firms. We differentiate between large exchange-listed firms and small and medium sized companis throughout. With respect to the role of banks as monitoring investors, the evidence does not unanimously support a special role of banks for large firms. Only one study finds that banks' control of management goes beyond what non-bank shareholders achieve. Proxy-voting rights apparently do not provide a significant means for banks to exert management control. Most of the recent evidence regarding small firms suggests that a Hausbank relationship can indeed be beneficial. Hausbanks are more willing to sustain financing when borrower quality deteriorates, and they invest more often than arm's-length banks in workouts if borrowers face financial distress.

Suggested Citation

  • Elsas, Ralf & Krahnen, Jan Pieter, 2003. "Universal Banks and Relationships with Firms," CFS Working Paper Series 2003/20, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200320
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    Cited by:

    1. Ernstberger, Jürgen & Vogler, Oliver, 2008. "Analyzing the German accounting triad -- "Accounting Premium" for IAS/IFRS and U.S. GAAP vis-à-vis German GAAP?," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 339-386, December.
    2. Al-Jarhi, Mabid Ali M. M., 2016. "An Economic Theory of Islamic Finance Regulation," Islamic Economic Studies, The Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), vol. 24, pages 1-44.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    relationship lending; Hausbank; universal banking; corporate finance; corporate governance;

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill

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