This paper is one of the first to analyse political influence on state-owned savings banks in a developed country with an established financial market: Germany. Combining a large dataset with financial and operating figures of all 457 German savings banks from 1994 to 2006 and information on over 1,250 local elections during this period we investigate the change in business behavior around elections. We find strong indications for political influence: the probability that savings banks close branches, lay-off employees or engage in merger activities is significantly reduced around elections. At the same time they tend to increase their extraordinary spendings, which include support for social and cultural events in the area, on average by over 15%. Finally, we find that savings banks extend significantly more loans to their corporate and private customers in the run-up to an election. In further analyses, we show that the magnitude of political influence depends on bank specific, economical and political circumstances in the city or county: political influence seems to be facilitated by weak political majorities and profitable banks. Banks in economically weak areas seem to be less prone to political influence.
savings banks political influence government-owned banks corporate governance political economy state-owned enterprises electoral cycle