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Corporate Governance in ContextCorporations, States, and Markets in Europe, Japan, and the US$
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Klaus J. Hopt, Eddy Wymeersch, Hideki Kanda, and Harald Baum

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199290703

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199290703.001.0001

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The Multiple Roles of Banks? Convenient Tales from Modern Japan

The Multiple Roles of Banks? Convenient Tales from Modern Japan

(p.527) The Multiple Roles of Banks? Convenient Tales from Modern Japan
Corporate Governance in Context

Yoshiro Miwa

J. Mark Ramseyer

Oxford University Press

In the modern banking literature, scholars who write about Japan focus on the concept of a ‘main bank’: the notion that all large Japanese firms maintain a specially close relationship with one bank that performs multiple roles. That notion, however, constitutes but the most recent iteration of a myth that has thrived for nearly a half-century: the notion that large Japanese firms organise themselves around a few key banks as keiretsu corporate groups. And this myth, in turn, constitutes part of a larger tale that places Japanese firms within a non-market, government-dominated hothouse environment. This chapter attempts to unravel these inter-related urban legends. Part II explains the role the government has (and has not) played in the Japanese economy. It then discusses the putative keiretsu corporate groups and ‘main bank’ relationships. All three of these urban legends share a common intellectual ancestry that traces its roots to the peculiar politics of the post-war Japanese and American universities. Accordingly, Part III closes by telling that intellectual history.

Keywords:   Japanese firms, main banks, keiretsu

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