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Russian Privatization and Corporate Governance: What Went Wrong?

Bernard S. Black

Northwestern University - School of Law; Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Reinier Kraakman

Harvard Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute

Anna Tarassova

University of Maryland - Center on Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector (IRIS)

As published in Stanford Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 1731-1808, 2000.

In Russia and elsewhere, proponents of rapid, mass privatization of state-owned enterprises (ourselves among them) hoped that the profit incentives unleashed by privatization would soon revive faltering, centrally planned economies. The revival didn't happen. We offer here some partial explanations. First, rapid mass privatization is likely to lead to massive self-dealing by managers and controlling shareholders unless (implausibly in the initial transition from central planning to markets) a country has a good infrastructure for controlling self-dealing. Russia accelerated the self-dealing process by selling control of its largest enterprises cheaply to crooks, who transferred their skimming talents to the enterprises they acquired, and used their wealth to further corrupt the government and block reforms that might constrain their actions. Second, profit incentives to restructure privatized businesses and create new ones can be swamped by the burden on business imposed by a combination of (among other things) a punitive tax system, official corruption, organized crime, and an unfriendly bureaucracy. Third, while self-dealing will still occur (though perhaps to a lesser extent) if state enterprises aren't privatized, since self-dealing accompanies privatization, it politically discredits privatization as a reform strategy and can undercut longer-term reforms. A principal lesson: developing the institutions to control self-dealing is central to successful privatization of large firms.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 79

JEL Classification: G34, P21

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Date posted: September 22, 1999  

Suggested Citation

Black, Bernard S. and Kraakman, Reinier and Tarassova, Anna, Russian Privatization and Corporate Governance: What Went Wrong?. As published in Stanford Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 1731-1808, 2000.. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=181348 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.181348

Contact Information

Bernard S. Black (Contact Author)
Northwestern University - School of Law ( email )
375 E. Chicago Ave
Unit 1505
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
512-503-2784 (Phone)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management
2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-5049 (Phone)
European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)
Reinier H. Kraakman
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-3586 (Phone)
617-496-6118 (Fax)
European Corporate Governance Institute ( email )
B-1050 Brussels
Anna Tarassova
University of Maryland - Center on Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector (IRIS) ( email )
2105 Morrill Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States
Feedback to SSRN

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References:  95
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