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Market- vs. Bank-Based Financial Systems: Do Investor Rights Really Matter?


Why are common-law countries market-dominated and civil-law countries bank-dominated? This paper provides an explanation tied to legal traditions. Civil-law courts have been less effective in resolving conflicts than common-law courts because civil-law judges traditionally refrain from interpreting the codes and creating new rules. In a civil-law environment, where potential conflicts between borrowers and individual lenders inhibit the development of markets because the courts are unable to penalize defrauding borrowers, I show that banks can induce borrowers to honor their obligations by threatening to withhold services that only banks can provide. In other words, banks emerge as the primary contract enforcers in economies where courts are imperfect.

JEL Codes: G10, G21, K42

Keywords: Legal traditions, financial intermediaries, financial markets, comparative financial systems, investor protection


Suggested citation: Ergungor, Ozgur Emre, 2002. “Market- vs. Bank-Based Financial Systems: Do Investor Rights Really Matter?,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper, no. 01-01R.

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