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Making Sense of Financial Crisis and Scandal: A Danish Bank Failure in the First Era of Finance Capitalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2015


In this paper I discuss a dramatic financial collapse and scandal in Denmark in the interwar period. I analyze the asset price bubble from 1914 to 1920 and the subsequent failure in 1922 of Scandinavia's largest bank, the Danish Landmandsbanken, as well as the downfall of its CEO Emil Glückstadt. I discuss the sense-making process, first during the bubble and then following Landmandsbanken's collapse and Glückstadt's fall from power in 1922, and finally until the introduction of a new bank act in 1930. I further argue that such crises and scandals force contemporaries to make sense of the dramatic fall from the top of society of these icons and of their role in the collapse of their banks. I view the sense-making process as centered on the construction of narratives that explain the crisis and enable or constrain institutional response to the crisis. To conclude, I argue that the process of sense-making in the case of Landmandsbanken can be generalized as the way in which society enforces norms and values in cases of dramatic financial crisis and scandal.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2011. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Business History Conference. All rights reserved.

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