Organizational Form and Financial Stability: Lessons from Cooperative Banks in the US and UK
Banking and Finance Law Review, July 2016, Forthcoming
36 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2016 Last revised: 2 Apr 2016
Date Written: February 4, 2016
One of the important lessons of the Global Financial Crisis is that cooperative banks proved considerably more resilient than corporate ones. Many observers have noted that cooperative banks were less prone to the risky practices that led to the Crisis, and attributed this to their organizational structure, which seemingly creates less incentive for profit-maximization. This paper investigates these observations from a legal perspective. It analyzes the governing laws of cooperative banks in the US and UK in order to explain how they may influence financial stability. In doing so, the paper points out that many of the post-Crisis reforms are already embedded in the governance structure of cooperative banks. Specifically, cooperative banks in both countries face internal limits on growth and investment. More importantly, the cooperative model includes various disciplinary mechanisms to ensure that management acts in the best interests of the firm’s customers, who have little interest in profits. These include clear statutory purposes, democratic governance, fiduciary duties, strict conflict of interest rules, independent oversight committees, and restrictions on compensation. Most of these features go much further and address the profit motive more directly than the post-Crisis reforms.
Keywords: Banking, Cooperatives, Credit Unions, Financial Crisis, Financial Stability
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