Research projects

The Power of Law : the emergence of elite business lawyers as transnational professionals (1950-2000)

Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, University of Zurich, 2023-2025

Why and how did elite international business lawyers become major actors in the globalization of the legal field and essential intermediaries between several fields of power? This project takes a new approach to this topical question. It examines how multinational law firms expanded to Continental Europe between the 1950s and 1990s and how their establishment affected the local legal elites and business practices.

The project traces the historical roots of this trend, by tracking for the first time the establishment of the first multinational law firms in Continental Europe during the second half of the 20th century. As early as the 1950s and 1960s, US American and English law firms, such as Baker McKenzie, Coudert Brothers, Cleary Gottlieb or Clifford Chance, expanded overseas. This foundational and therefore crucial age of pioneering multinational expansion of law firms is scarcely known.
My project builds on three research questions: 1) Why did Anglo-Saxon law firms move to continental Europe and what were their criteria for site location?; 2) How did their settlement transform the local market for legal services (protectionism of the bar associations, increasing international partnerships)?; 3) What was the socio-professional profile of the partners and associates of these multinational firms and how did they compare to the local legal elite (career and international mobility)?
This research focuses on two continental European locations in civil law countries: Switzerland (Zurich), and Belgium (Brussels), which account for early office openings of multinational law firms.

Power of law is a 2-year research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. A Swiss Postdoctoral Fellowship will allow me to carry it out at the University of Zurich in 2023-2025.

Skatteschweizare – Svensk skattemigration till Schweiz mellan 1950 och 1980 / Swedish tax migration to Switzerland between 1950 and 1980

Project led at Uppsala University by Mikael Wendschlag (PI), funded by the Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius Stiftelse, Tore Browaldhs Stiftelse, 2022-2026

In the decades following the Second World War, many wealthy Swedes moved abroad, many to the tax haven of Switzerland. These Swedes came to be known as ‘Skatteschweizare’ in the press and in political debate. They were criticised as evaders and exploiters, but were also portrayed as activists under an unsustainably high tax burden. In this project, we will investigate who these “skatteschweizers” were and how migration from Sweden to Switzerland between 1950 and 1980 influenced the Swedish debate on tax morality, tax evasion and the Swedish tax system. We will also examine how Switzerland was affected by international pressure for reform and increased transparency on tax evasion issues.

This project will build on several possible research questions. Were the settlement choices of wealthy Swedes in Swiss cantons – driven by taxes, networks of business opportunities? How were the issues related to tax evasion from Sweden to Switzerland framed differently and affected policy responses in both countries. We will also investigate the perception of the people involved: From traitors to activists – Swedish tax emigrants in the public debate between 1950 to 1980.

Global Correspondent Banking, 1870-2000

Faculty of History, University of Oxford, 2021-2026

Banking, and in particular international banking, has served as a foundational element of the global financial system while also playing an ever-increasing role in our everyday lives. Surprisingly, not much is known about the formation and development of international banking networks. Moreover, there is a lack of information regarding how international transactions and interbank connections were managed, built and later developed into our current system. The EU-funded GloCoBank project aims to change this. It plans to compile and analyse a set of data and combine it with extensive archival research, thus creating a comprehensive data source. The project’s results will provide a much more granular assessment of the patterns and dynamics of international banking.

GloCoBank is a 5-year research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) which seeks to identify and analyse the international network of correspondent banking relationships across the 20th century. The project is led by Professor Catherine Schenk. In 2021-2022, I was a Postdoctoral researcher on this project, in charge of the European networks WP. I am now associated researcher.

The origins of the fight against financial crime in Switzerland (1970-1990)

Les origines de la lutte contre la criminalité financière en Suisse (1970-1990)

Department of Economic History, Uppsala Universitet, 09.2018-03.2020

In today’s Switzerland, there is not only a specialized section for Economic Crime in the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (a division created in 2002), but many cantons also have teams of prosecutors specialized in this type of investigation. At the end of the 1960s, the judicial responses against economic crime were still in its infancy and the courts had inadequate resources. This project aims to understand the emergence of the fight against financial crime in Switzerland between the mid-1970s and the end of the 1980s. More specifically, it is structured around two main research questions. The first concerns the actors involved in this process of fighting economic crime. The aim is to identify, in the two main cantons concerned, namely Zurich and Geneva, the institutions and individuals who are at the forefront of the fight against financial crime. The second main research question concerns the reasons that led the Swiss ruling circles to intervene in the reorganization of the legal authorities and to provide responses – both in the investigation and in the penalty – more adapted to the specificities of economic crime.

The project was supported by an early postdoc.mobility fellowship awarded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

An article published in Business history summarizes the main results of the project. First results have been presented at the Swiss Congress for Historical Sciences (05.06.2019) in the session “Délinquance financière et réponses politiques (XIXe-XXe siècles)” and at the international workshop organized in Uppsala “White-Collar Crime in Financial History” (12.09.2019).

Banking supervision in Switzerland and Belgium : the establishment and the evolution of financial regulatory regimes and their influence on the development of financial centers (1935-1975)

La surveillance bancaire en Suisse et en Belgique : la mise en place et l’évolution de régimes de régulation financière et leur rôle dans le développement de places financières (1935-1975).

Research Centre of Economic History, KU Leuven & City University London, 2013-2014

This project, part of my PhD thesis, discusses the evolution of banking supervision regimes in Switzerland and Belgium, from the establishment of the first banking laws in the 1930s to the turning point of globalisation and deregulation in the late 1970s. During this period, both countries set up banking regulations in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Interestingly, both the Swiss (in 1934) and Belgian (in 1935) authorities chose to create a new supervisory body to deal with banking supervision, instead of putting the central banks or the finance ministry in charge of supervising the commercial banks. The Eidgenössische Bankenkommission in Bern and the Commission bancaire in Brussels were established to enforce the liberal regulations provided in the respective banking legislations.

The project was supported by a doc.mobility fellowship awarded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Collaborative projects

Financial scandals in history

University of Lausanne, 2017-2021

Collective research project with Malik Mazbouri (University of Lausanne) and Patrice Baubeau (Paris Nanterre).

Financial scandals compare, combine and draw on sources from several disciplines, ranging from the history of financial crises and the history of media to the sociology of engagement and the history of mentalities. The notion of financial scandal, which may also include business or corporate scandals, is taken in a broad sense, going beyond the spheres of banking and finance to encompass any events involving the business world and economic stakeholders that elicit public engagement and outcry. It investigates the conditions required for a scandal to break out, public condemnation of a moral or legal transgression. It necessarily involves the question of values and attitudes to money.

This project resulted in a co-edited issue of Entreprises & histoire, published in December 2020, and a workshop organized at the C2DH (May 2019, Luxembourg University).