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A Legislator under Surveillance: The Creation and Implementation of Swiss Banking Legislation 1910-1934
European History Quarterly
Date de publication
This paper analyses how banking regulation was introduced in Switzerland - one of the world's most prominent financial centres - which remained in place until the beginning of the twenty-first century. It shows that the law adopted on 8 November 1934 is a perfect example of capture of the regulator by the regulated. Essentially a political response in the context of the economic crisis of the 1930s, it largely reflected the interests of banking circles by limiting the intervention of the State as much as possible. The introduction of the new legislation was facilitated by the temporary weakness of Swiss banking circles, as they depended on the State to delay or prevent the collapse of many major credit institutions. They did not manage to derail the law as they had two decades earlier when they scuppered the federal bill on banks drawn up between 1914 and 1916. But this time they were better organized and more united, and intervened all the more effectively in the legislative process itself. The 1934 law is thus distinctive in that it made no structural changes to the architecture of the financial centre but merely codified its practices through flexible legislation meant to reassure the public. The law was aimed less at controlling banking activity than at keeping - thanks to skilfully calibrated political concessions - the State from having to intervene more directly in the internal management of banks or in the fixing of interest rates and the export of capital.
Banking legislation, banking regulation, economic crisis, Swiss financial centre
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