Unlimiting Unlimited Liability: Legal Equality for Swedish Banks with Alternative Shareholder Liability Regimes (1897-1903)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper examines the aftermath of the 1897 Riksbank Act in Swedish banking. The Act placed banks with unlimited and limited liability upon equal footing, removing the note issuing privileges of the former. We consider whether changes in risk preferences occurred subsequent to the Act, or whether extended liability was a sufficient deterrent. We conclude that when legal differences were removed, lower transaction costs for ULBs spurred aggressive competition reflected in narrower interest spreads relative to LLBs. ULBs also took on greater leverage and held less liquidity, which supports the Coasean interpretation that shareholder liability regime mattered little. After 1897, ULB shareholders continued to receive higher dividends, enjoyed substantially superior returns on equity and maintained an array of corporate governance controls to shield themselves against their additional risk.


External organisations
  • Uppsala University
  • Uppsala universitet: Ekonomiskhistoriska institutionen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History


  • Extended shareholder liability, corporate governance, Sweden, note issuance, asset and liability management, Banking stability, Bank Regulation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-218
JournalBusiness History Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 15
Publication categoryResearch