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The Politics of Bank Structural Reform: Business power and agenda setting in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

David Howarth, Scott James

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-51
Number of pages27
JournalBusiness and Politics
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jun 2019
Accepted/In press10 Dec 2018
E-pub ahead of print25 Jun 2019
Published20 Mar 2020


King's Authors


Following the financial crisis, the United Kingdom introduced major structural reforms to address concern about Too-Big-To-Fail (TBTF) banks, while France and Germany adopted much weaker reforms. This is puzzling given the presence of large universal banks engaged in market making activities in all three countries, which suffered significant losses during the international financial crisis, and given the commitments to reform made by political leaders in all three countries. The paper explains this policy divergence by analysing how dynamics of agenda setting contributed to the emergence of policy windows on structural reform. We explain the United Kingdom's decision to delegate the process to an independent commission as an example of venue shifting which helped to insulate the process from industry framing, and resulted in "conflict expansion" by mobilizing a wider coalition of actors in support of bank ringfencing. By contrast, in France and Germany the agenda was tightly managed through existing institutional venues, enabling industry to resist the framing of the issue around TBTF and limiting the role of non-business groups- A process we label as "conflict contraction." We argue that analysis of agenda setting dynamics provides new insights into the cross-national variability of business power.

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