“The influence of the indexbuilders grows, but who controls them?”

“They are in the era of passive investing the new gatekeepers of the financial markets. While the influence of indexbuilders grows, they are barely being controlled”.

Het Financieele Dagblad (FD) has published a new article on the rising influence of indexbuilders and draws on the conclusions of the recently published article “Steering capital: the growing private authority of index providers in the age of passive asset management” by Johannes Petry, Jan Fichtner and Eelke Heemskerk.

Read the full FD article here.

Are Asset Management Giants Walking the Walk On Long-Termism?

A new CORPNET working paper has been published by Jan Fichtner and Eelke Heemskerk and provides novel findings on the combined ownership of the Big Three (BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street). Fichtner and Heemskerk call them the ‘New Permanent Universal Owners’ as they are invested indefinitely in thousands of member firms of stock indexes. This paper assesses Big Three ownership in 17 major stock indexes from nine countries and shows that their voting behavior on buybacks and mergers & acquisitions so far does not support their claim to be champions of long-termism.

This publication is featured by Institutional Investor. In the interview Fichtner and Heemskerk say: “The concentration of ownership in their fund families was never on purpose; the concentration of voting power is a side effect of their successful business model. How can they now develop a responsible stewardship role without increasing their operational costs, without raising antitrust concerns and without undermining their business model?” The paper, having “struck a nerve” sparked reactions from BlackRock and Vanguard which can be read here.

IC²S² 2019 organized by CORPNET team

The International Conference on Computational Social Science, abbreviated IC²S² 2019, will be held at the University of Amsterdam from July 17 to 20, 2019. The CORPNET computational social science research group is enthusiastic and excited about bringing this important conference to Amsterdam.

For four days, from July 17 to 20, the University of Amsterdam will be the epicenter of computational social science, hosting the 2019 edition of International Conference on Computational Social Science (IC2S2).

The 5th edition of IC2S2 aims to bring together scientists from different disciplines and research areas to meet and discuss computational problems in the study of social systems and dynamics. The conference draws over 350 researchers and practitioners from over 20 countries and an array of disciplines including amongst others sociology, psychology, communication sciences, computer science, physics, mathematics, the life sciences and economics.

Leading scientists and experts from all over the world will gather and exchange newest research findings during the conference. A data-thon will allow researchers to demonstrate their computational analysis skills while tackling real-world problems, while skills workshops will help attendees develop their computational skillsets.

Stay up to date

More information about the conference is on the website.

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Check out this Video IC2S2 comes to Amsterdam

Who is more powerful – states or corporations?

A new blog by the CORPNET group has been published on The Conversation. The blog, “Who is more powerful -states or corporations?”, is written by Milan Babic, Eelke Heemskerk and Jan Fichtner and can be found here.

Who holds the power in international politics? Most people would probably say it’s the largest states in the global system. The current landscape of international relations seems to affirm this intuition: new Russian geopolitics, “America First” and Chinese state-led global expansion, among others, seem to put state power back in charge after decades of globalisation.

Yet multinationals like Apple and Starbucks still wield phenomenal power. They oversee huge supply chains, sell products all over the world, and help mould international politics to their interests. In some respects, multinationals have governments at their beck and call – witness their consistent success at dodging tax payments. So when it comes to international politics, are states really calling the shots?

Wie vormen de (bedrijfs)elite? (Dutch)

A new blog (in Dutch) by the CORPNET group has been published by StukRoodVlees. The blog, “Wie vormen de (bedrijfs)elite?”, is written bij Jouke Huijzer and can be found here.


Zaterdag publiceerde de Volkskrant voor de 12e keer de top 200 van meest invloedrijke personen in Nederland. De lijst, dit jaar opnieuw aangevoerd door Hans Wijers, voormalig minister van Economische zaken en commissaris bij verschillende Nederlandse multinationals, is meer dan een rangschikking van individuen. Het is volgens de Volkskrant ook een poging om de “gevestigde orde”, de “bestuurselite” of de “schaduwmacht van de notabelen” in kaart te brengen, met de regering “als het centrum van de macht”. Uit een database van meer dan 23.000 personen die actief zijn in grote bedrijven en bij belangrijke organisaties, wordt de lijst aan de hand van een netwerkanalyse van dubbelposities samengesteld. Vervolgens wegen de journalisten sommige organisaties en personen nog een stukje zwaarder waardoor sommige personen iets hoger en andere personen iets lager op de lijst komen.

Bij het samenstellen van de lijst worden een aantal beproefde en valide netwerkanalysemethodes gebruikt om de macht en invloed van de individuen te bepalen. Toch geeft de lijst op zijn slechtst een vertekend, en op zijn best een onvolledig beeld van de werkelijke bestuurselite in Nederland. Ten eerste omdat bij de lijst het primaat bij de politiek ligt en ten tweede omdat het onwaarschijnlijk is dat het establishment elk jaar precies even groot is. Waarom bestaat de lijst elk jaar uit 200 personen? Waarom bestaat de lijst niet uit meer of uit minder mensen en hoe bakenen we de elite op een juiste manier af?

The promise and perils of using big data in the study of corporate networks: problems, diagnostics and fixes

A new paper by the CORPNET group has been published in the Global Networks journal. The article, “The promise and perils of using big data in the study of corporate networks: problems, diagnostics and fixes”, is written by Eelke Heemskerk, Kevin Young, Frank takes, Bruce Cronin, Javier Garcia-Bernardo, Lasse Hendriksen, William Winekoff, Vladimir Popov and Audrey Lautin-Lamothe, and can be found here.

Network data on connections between corporate actors and entities – for instance through co-ownership ties or elite social networks – are increasingly available to researchers interested in probing the many important questions related to the study of modern capitalism. Given the analytical challenges associated with the nature of the subject matter, variable data quality and other problems associated with currently available data on this scale, we discuss the promise and perils of using big corporate network data (BCND). We propose a standard procedure for helping researchers deal with BCND problems. While acknowledging that different research questions require different approaches to data quality, we offer a schematic platform that researchers can follow to make informed and intelligent decisions about BCND issues and address these through a specific work-flow procedure. For each step in this procedure, we provide a set of best practices for how to identify, resolve and minimize the BCND problems that arise.

Two Policy Briefs by the CORPNET group

Two Policy Briefs have been written by a member of the CORPNET group, Carmel Shenkar.

The ‘Regulatory Cooperation and Conflict: Regulating Systemic Risk in the Asset Management Industry’ Policy Brief can be found here.

This brief reviews the legal powers allocated to designated authorities to regulate the asset management industry in three ‘jurisdictions’. It focuses on the powers of different government bodies to designate and regulate potential systemic risk posed by systematically important financial institutions; and in particular, by nonbank non-insurer asset management companies. By explaining the different regulatory structures, this brief outlines the institutional architecture entrusted to maintain national and international financial stability.

The ‘Horizontal minority shareholdings in the EU, US, UK and Germany: Applicable Legal Framework’ Policy Brief can be found here.

The practice of cross-ownership in competing firms by institutional investors has grown significantly in recent years. Such cross ownership is said to result in anticompetitive effects in concentrated industries. One possibility to regulate this activity, thus, is antitrust regulation. This brief presents an initial review of current antitrust/competition regulatory framework in four jurisdictions: the EU, US, UK and Germany.

States versus Corporations: Rethinking the Power of Business in International Politics

A new paper by the CORPNET group has been published in The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs. The article, “States versus Corporations: Rethinking the Power of Business in International Politics”, is written by Milan Babic, Jan Fichtner and Heemskerk and can be found here.


Over 25 years ago, Susan Strange urged IR scholars to include multinational corporations in their analysis. Within IR and IPE discussions, this was either mostly ignored or reflected in an empirically and methodologically unsatisfactory way. We reiterate Strange’s call by sketching a fine-grained theoretical and empirical approach that includes both states and corporations as juxtaposed actors that interact in transnational networks inherent to the contemporary international political economy. This realistic, juxtaposed, actor- and relations-centred perspective on state and corporate power in the global system is empirically illustrated by the example of the transnationalisation of state ownership.

Response to Howard Quayle, Chief Minister of Isle of Man

Howard Quayle, Chief Minister of the Isle of Man has recently stated that CORPNET did not list Isle of Man as a tax haven:

“I don’t think we are a tax haven, for a start. That’s not me saying that, that’s the OECD, that’s the University of Amsterdam who did a report very recently listing tax havens, the Isle of Man wasn’t one of them.”

The report: “Uncovering Offshore Financial Centers: Conduits and Sinks in the Global Corporate Ownership Network”, Javier Garcia-Bernardo, Jan Fichtner, Frank W. Takes & Eelke M. Heemskerk, Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 6246 (2017)

We clarify that we did not produce a list of tax havens, but a list of jurisdictions where the ownership of companies accumulates (sinks-OFCs) and a list where the ownership of companies goes through (conduit-OFCs). While Isle of Man may not be a large player in corporate tax avoidance, it may be a large player in other types of tax avoidance, such as VAT avoidance, and that cannot be inferred from our study. Recognized tax havens by the EU and the IMF such as Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, or Turks and Caicos Islands did not show up as sink-OFCs, for the simple reason that corporations/individuals do not organize their ownership structures from those places.

In our report, we found that owners of companies do not generally place their entities/vehicles in Isle of Man. This is similar to what we find with Guernsey, Ireland or the Netherlands (Figure A as lime-colored dot). On the contrary, according to our data, entities in Isle of Man are usually owned from other countries.

However, we found that Isle of Man is used as a conduit in corporate constructions that start from a sink-OFC, go through Isle of Man, and end up in a third country (Figure B as lime-colored dot in the bottom-right quadrant). While Isle of Man may not be a sink-OFC, our results indicate that the territory may be used to own companies in sink-OFCs.

For the complete list of sink and conduit-OFCs, please see Supplementary Information.

Comparison with several list of offshore financial centers