Horse, Cow, Sheep, or 'Thing-In-Itself'? The Cognitive Origins of Corporate Governance in Switzerland, Germany, and the U.S., 1910s-1930s

66 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2007 Last revised: 5 Sep 2008

Gerhard Schnyder

King's College London; Centre for Business Research

Martin Luepold

University of Zurich

Date Written: February 28, 2008

Abstract

This paper investigates into the origins of the shareholder-oriented corporate governance (CG) model of the US and the stakeholder-oriented model prevailing in continental Europe throughout the 20th century. Contrary to mainstream theories, which explain different CG models by different legal traditions, we interpret the emergence of two different models in the US and in Continental European countries as a sequence of changes in which different conceptions of the corporation formulated by legal scholars played an important role. We show that during the period from the 1910s to the 1930s, with the increasing size of firms, new corporate governance problems arose. Scholars in Switzerland, in Germany, and in the US diagnosed this development - which mainly concerned the position of small shareholders - in different ways and proposed different remedies. These diagnoses and remedies informed political decision-makers in times of uncertainty and contributed, thus, in important ways to shaping the different 'paths' which continental European countries and the US went down subsequently.

Keywords: Corporate governance, company law, comparative business systems, history, Switzerland

JEL Classification: B10, B20

Suggested Citation

Schnyder, Gerhard and Luepold, Martin, Horse, Cow, Sheep, or 'Thing-In-Itself'? The Cognitive Origins of Corporate Governance in Switzerland, Germany, and the U.S., 1910s-1930s (February 28, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1018413 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1018413

Gerhard Schnyder (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

150 Stamford Street
London, SE1 9NN
United Kingdom
++44 (0)20 7848 4633 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/mgmt/people/academic/schnyder/

Centre for Business Research ( email )

University of Cambridge
Judge Business School Building
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom
++44 (0)1223 765325 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.cbr.cam.ac.uk/people/Schnyder.htm

Martin Luepold

University of Zurich ( email )

Zurich
Switzerland

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