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British Financial Crises since 1825$
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Nicholas Dimsdale and Anthony Hotson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199688661

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199688661.001.0001

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Holding Shareholders to Account

Holding Shareholders to Account

British Banking Stability and Contingent Capital

(p.139) 8 Holding Shareholders to Account
British Financial Crises since 1825

John Turner

Oxford University Press

This chapter seeks to explain the relative stability of the British banking system in terms of its capital structure. From 1826 joint-stock banking was allowed, but shareholder liability was jointly and severally unlimited. Limited liability banks were allowed from 1857–8, but these banks issued partly paid shares with an obligation on shareholders to subscribe for uncalled capital. Contingent capital meant that shareholders and managers would suffer losses in the event of failure and this discouraged risk shifting at the expense of note-holders and depositors. Although individual banks collapsed, the failure rate of banks (in terms of number or capital) did not reach a critical level—10 per cent—beyond which the payments system might have been threatened. This chapter argues that agency problems and systemic risk rose after the abolition of contingent share capital in 1958 and the deregulation of the banking sector in the 1970s.

Keywords:   contingent capital, risk, payment, systemic, stability

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