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Regulation and competition in German banking : an assessment

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  • Ddc:330
  • Economics
  • Political Science


In Germany a public discussion on the "power of banks" has been going on for decades now with power having at least two meanings. On the one hand it is the power of banks to control public corporations through direct shareholdings or the exercise of proxy votes - this is the power of banks in corporate control. On the other hand it is market power - due to imperfect competition in markets for financial services - that banks exercise vis-à-vis their loan and deposit customers. In the past, bank regulation has often been blamed to undermine competition and the working of market forces in the financial industry for the sake of soundness and stability of financial services firms. This chapter tries to shed some light on the historical development and current state of bank regulation in Germany. In so doing it tries to embed the analysis of bank regulation into a more general industrial organisation framework. For every regulated industry, competition and regulation are deeply interrelated as most regulatory institutions - even if they do not explicitly address the competitiveness of the market - either affect market structure or conduct. This paper tries to uncover some of the specific relationships between monetary policy, government interference and bank regulation on the one hand and bank market structure and economic performance on the other. In so doing we hope to point to several areas for fruitful research in the future. While our focus is on Germany, some of the questions that we raise and some of our insights might also be applicable to banking systems elsewhere. Klassifikation: G28, G21, L11, L51. Revised version forthcoming in "The German Financial System", edited by Jan P. Krahnen and Reinhard H. Schmidt, Oxford University Press. This version June 2003.

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