Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 17 > Issue 4

The Oligarch Vanishes: Defensive Ownership, Property Rights, and Political Connections

John S. Earle, George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government, USA, earle@gmu.edu , Solomiya Shpak, Kyiv School of Economics, Ukraine, sshpak@kse.org.ua , Anton Shirikov, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Political Science, USA, shirikov@wisc.edu , Scott Gehlbach, University of Chicago, Department of Political Science and Harris School of Public Policy, USA, gehlbach@uchicago.edu
Suggested Citation
John S. Earle, Solomiya Shpak, Anton Shirikov and Scott Gehlbach (2022), "The Oligarch Vanishes: Defensive Ownership, Property Rights, and Political Connections", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 17: No. 4, pp 513-546. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00020228

Publication Date: 25 Oct 2022
© 2022 J. S. Earle et al.
Disclosure,  Financial reporting,  Panel data,  Firm ownership,  Strategic alliances and networks,  International business,  Comparative political economy,  Political corruption,  Political economy,  Political networks
Defensive ownershipproperty rightspolitical connectionsoligarchsUkraine


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In this article:
Motivation and Theoretical Framework 
Identifying and Characterizing Ownership Chains 
Political Connections and Other Data 
Empirical Strategy 
Conclusions and Discussion 


We examine the use of proxies, shell companies, and offshore firms to defend property against seizure by private and state actors. Our theoretical framework emphasizes the role of political connections in defensive ownership. Linking information from investigative journalists on the key holdings of numerous Ukrainian oligarchs with firm-level administrative data on formal ownership ties, we observe some form of defensive ownership among more than two-thirds of oligarch-controlled firms, but such conduct is much less common for those connected to the incumbent regime. Further exploiting the abrupt shock to political connections that accompanied the Orange Revolution, we find a sharp rise in defensive ownership among previously connected oligarchs.