Public Banks in the Age of Financialization
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Public Banks in the Age of Financialization

A Comparative Perspective

Edited by Christoph Scherrer

This book asks the important question of whether public banks are a better alternative to profit-seeking private banks. Do public banks provide finance for development? Do they serve as stability anchors in financial markets? What kind of governance keeps public banks accountable to the public? Theoretically the book draws on the works of Minsky for the question on stability and on interpretative policy analysis for the issue of governance. It compares empirically three countries with significant public banks: Brazil, Germany, and India.
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Chapter 11: Governance makes a difference: A case study of the German Landesbanken Helaba and WestLB

Xeniya Polikhronidi and Christoph Scherrer


The authors analyze the impact of governance structures on the performance of public banks by comparing an ambitious but ultimately failing Landesbank (WestLB) with a more prudent and so-far successful Landesbank (Helaba). By applying a multi-theoretical perspective, they find that the governance of these banks differed remarkably in terms of processes, which may explain the different fate of these Landesbanken to a large extent. While both banks suffered a major crisis in the 1970s, the owners of Helaba learned their lesson and set up a governance structure characterized by strict control and monitoring mechanisms. They also upheld the commitment to a public mandate. At WestLB, this commitment was dropped and the governance structure left management with a very high degree of autonomy.

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