Travaux de Science Politique n°22

Gerhard Schnyder, Martin Lüpold, André Mach and Thomas David, The Rise and Decline of the Swiss Company network during the 20th Century

In this paper, we trace the evolution of the Swiss company network during the 20th century. Based on interlock data for a sample of the 110 largest Swiss companies for seven assorted points in the century (1910, 1929, 1937, 1957, 1980, 1990 and 2000), we show that a (relatively) closely-meshed network of interlocking directorates emerged in Switzerland in the early part of the century. Banks held a particularly central position in this network. A second period, lasting from the 1930s up to the end of the 1980s - was marked by the relative stability and the further integration of the ties between Swiss companies. During the 1990s, however, an unraveling set in, changing the topography of the network of interlocks considerably. Thus, banks moved away from their traditional pivotal position in the network, and the overall density of the network declined in a significant way. In our paper, we explain this evolution by linking it to the particularities of the economic and political context of the Swiss economy during the three periods we have identified, i.e. the formative phase (1910-1937), the period of stability (1938-1980) and the period of decline (1980-2000). Furthermore, we try to show that this development was but one aspect of a more general transformation by which the traditionally closed and insider-oriented Swiss corporate governance system moved toward a system that was more shareholder-oriented and increasingly accessible to foreigners.

TSP 22  (3616 Ko)

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