Skip to main content Accessibility help

The network of global corporate control: implications for public policy

  • Hugh Compston


To what extent do transnational companies (TNCs) have the capacity to influence public policy? This article uses the results of a major new study of TNC ownership to shed light on this issue. It is found that TNC ownership and control is extremely concentrated and that there is an inner core of firms with strong co-ownership links that is overrepresented in the membership of major business organizations. It is concluded that these factors enhance the potential for TNCs in general, and core TNCs in particular, to influence public policy.


Corresponding author

Cardiff School of European Languages, Translation and Politics, Cardiff University, 65–68 Park Place, Cardiff CF23 5AB, UK, e-mail:


Hide All
Aggarwal, Reena, Erel, Isil, Ferreira, Miguel and Matos, Pedro. 2011. “Does Governance Travel Around the World? Evidence from Institutional Investors.” Journal of Financial Economics 100: 154181.
Bilderberg. 2012. “Governance” [online]. Accessed March 14, 2012.
Bureau Van Dijk. 2007. ORBIS [online]. Accessed June 5, 2012.
Bureau Van Dijk. 2008. BvDEP Ownership Database [online]. Accessed July 8, 2012.
Bureau Van Dijk. 2012. “User guide – BvD Ownership Database.” Bankscope. Accessed via Cardiff University subscription.
Business Roundtable. 2012. “About Us: Members” [online]. Accessed March 14, 2012.
Carroll, William K. 2010. The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class. London: Zed Books.
Claessens, S., Djankov, S. and Lang, L. H. P. 2000. “The Separation of Ownership and Control in East Asian Corporations.” Journal of Financial Economics 58: 81112.
Clark, Gordon L. and Hebb, Tessa. 2005. “Why Should They Care? The Role of Institutional Investors in the Market for Corporate Global Responsibility.” Environment and Planning A 37: 20152031.
Dahl, Robert A. 1958. “A Critique of the Ruling Elite Model.” American Political Science Review 52 (2): 463469.
Dahl, Robert A. 1959. “Business and Politics: A Critical Appraisal of Political Science.” American Political Science Review 53 (1): 134.
Davis, Gerald F. 2008. “A New Finance Capitalism? Mutual Funds and Ownership Re-Concentration in the United States.” European Management Review 5: 1121.
Domhoff, G. William. 2010. Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance, 6th edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
Dreiling, Michael and Darves, Derek. 2011. “Corporate Unity in American Trade Policy: A Network Analysis of Corporate-Dyad Political Action.” American Journal of Sociology 116 (5): 15141563.
European Financial Services Round Table. 2011. “Our Members.” Accessed March 17, 2012.
European Round Table of Industrialists. 2012. “All members since 1983” [online]. Accessed March 14, 2012.
Faccio, Mara and Lang, Larry H. P. 2002. “The Ultimate Ownership of Western European Corporations.” Journal of Financial Economics 65: 356395.
Financial Services Roundtable. 2012. “Member companies” [online]. 2009 Annual Report. Accessed March 14, 2012.
Florence, P. Sargant. 1953. The Logic of British and American Industry: A Realistic Analysis. London: Routledge.
Gadhoum, Yoser, Lang, Larry H. P. and Young, Leslie. 2005. “Who Controls US?European Financial Management 11 (3): 339363.
Getz, Kathleen A. 1997. “Research in Corporate Political Action: Integration and Assessment.” Business and Society 36 (1): 3272.
Glattfelder, James. 2010. “Ownership Networks and Corporate Control: Mapping Economic Power in a Globalised World.” PhD diss., ETH Zurich. Accessed March 3, 2012.
Goergen, Marc. 2012. International Corporate Governance. Harlow: Pearson.
Heemskerk, Eelke M. 2013. “The Rise of the European Corporate Elite: Evidence from the Network of Interlocking Directorates in 2005 and 2010.” Economy and Society 42 (1): 74101.
Helwege, Jean, Intinoli, Vincent J. and Zhang, Andrew. 2012. “Voting With Their Feet or Activism? Institutional Investors’ Impact on CEO Turnover.” Journal of Corporate Finance 18: 2237.
Hendry, John, Sanderson, Paul, Barker, Richard and Roberts, John. 2006. “Owners or Traders? Conceptualisations of Institutional Investors and their Relationship with Corporate Managers.” Human Relations 59: 11011132.
Institute of International Finance. 2012a. “Membership (as of March 2011).” 2010 Annual Report [online]. Accessed March 14, 2012.
Institute of International Finance. 2012b. “Board of Directors (as of January 2011).” 2010 Annual Report [online]. Accessed March 14, 2012.
La Porta, Rafael, Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio and Shleifer, Andrei. 1999. “Corporate Ownership Around the World.” Journal of Finance 54 (2): 471517.
Lindblom, Charles. 1977. Politics and Markets. New York: Basic Books.
Lysandrou, Photis and Stoyanova, Denitsa. 2007. “The Anachronism of the Voice-Exit Paradigm: Institutional Investors and Corporate Governance in the UK.” Corporate Governance 15 (6): 10701078.
Miliband, Ralph. 1983. “State Power and Class Interests.” New Left Review I/138: 5767.
Mills, C. Wright. 1956. The Power Elite. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mizruchi, Mark. 1988. “Economic Concentration and Corporate Political Behavior: A Cross-Industry Comparison.” Social Science Research 17: 287305.
Mizruchi, Mark. 2004. “Berle and Means Revisited: The Governance and Power of Large US Corporations.” Theory and Society 33: 579617.
Nenova, T. 2003. “The Value of Corporate Voting Rights and Control: A Cross-Country Analysis.” Journal of Financial Economics 68: 325351.
Nollert, Michael. 2005. “Transnational Corporate Ties: A Synopsis of Theories and Empirical Findings.” Journal of World Systems Research 11 (2): 289314.
Noteboom, Bart. 1999. “Voice- and Exit-Based Forms of Corporate Control: Anglo-American, European and Japanese.” Journal of Economic Issues 33 (4): 845860.
Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Pinto Ribeiro, S., Menghinello, S. and Backer, K. D. 2010. “The OECD ORBIS Database: Responding to the Need For Firm-Level Micro-Data in the OECD.” OECD Statistics Working Papers [online], 2010/1. OECD Publishing. Accessed January 23, 2012.
Schuler, Douglas A., Rehbein, Kathleen and Cramer, Roxy D. 2002. “Pursuing Strategic Advantage Through Political Means: A Multivariate Approach.” The Academy of Management Journal 45 (4): 659672.
Scott, John, 1997. Corporate Business and Capitalist Classes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sklair, Leslie. 2001. The Transnational Capitalist Class. Oxford: Blackwell.
Smith, Mark A. 2000. American Business and Political Power. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Commission, Trilateral. 2012. “Trilateral Commission Membership List 2012” [online]. Accessed July 30, 2012.
Useem, Michael. 1996. Investor Capitalism. New York: Basic Books.
Vitali, Stefania, Glattfelder, James B. and Battiston, Stefano. 2011a. “The Network of Global Corporate Control.” PLOSOne [online]. Accessed October 23, 2011.
Vitali, Stefania, Glattfelder, James B. and Battiston, Stefano. 2011b. “737 Topholders List” [online]. Accessed March 3, 2012.
Vogel, David. 1996. “The Study of Business and Politics.” California Management Review 38 (3): 146165.
Wessa, P. 2012. “Testing Population Proportion – Critical Value”. Free Statistics Software, Office for Research Development and Education, version 1.1.23-r7. Accessed October 19, 2012.
Widmer, Frédéric. 2011. “Institutional Investors, Corporate Elites and the Building of a Market for Corporate Control.” Socio-Economic Review 9: 671697.
World Economic Forum 2012a. “Industry Partner Groups” [online]. Accessed March 28, 2012.
World Economic Forum 2012b. “Strategic Partners” [online]. Accessed March 28, 2012.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed