"From Connections to Persistence" - a worthy Williamson Award Best Conference Paper Winner

Pierre-Guillaume Méon after receiving the Williamson Award 2023

By the members of the SIOE 2023 executive program committee and Scott Gehlbach, Bob Gibbons, and Pauline Grosjean

For the Oliver Williamson Award for the Best Conference Paper at SIOE's 2023 annual meeting in Frankfurt, the committee unanimously selected one runner-up and one winner.

Runner-up: "Who Benefits from Tax Evasion of Politically Connected Firms?"
Ruben Enikolopov and Sergey Mityakov

This is a wonderful paper that goes inside the firm to understand the distribution of benefits from political connections—in this case, from connections to former Moscow city officials who are useful in helping a firm evade taxes.

Winner: "From Connections to Persistence: Evidence from Political Purges in Post-WWII France"
Toke Aidt, Jean Lacroix, and Pierre-Guillaume Méon (the latter featured on the picture)

This is also a paper about connections, though in this case it is the connections of the French parliamentarians who supported the Vichy regime in 1940 and who stood to be purged, or lustrated—banned from public service—after the War. Intuitively, and generically, we might expect individuals who have better connections to be better able to protect their position in the event of regime change, such as the reversion to democracy in post-war France. In practice, connections are hard to document, and their effects hard to identify.

The paper has a beautiful design that exploits a plausibly proxy for connections—background in the law, and the fact that some of those who were judging the former parliamentarians were themselves prominent members of the Parisian legal community—and an institutional design such that the decision to purge operated through a two-stage legal process—one in the relevant département, one in Paris—where only the second stage was controlled by those prominent Parisian lawyers.

The basic finding—and there is so much more—is that law graduates were substantially more likely to be acquitted by the Parisian court, which made the final decision and where they had connections, than in the district courts that made the initial recommendation.

One of the really great things about this paper is the careful attention to supporting evidence in the defendants' dossiers, collected through archival research, and to the meanings attached to those documents. Thus, for example, the paper exploits the tone of the letters from those who lobbied for acquittal: a letter than begins "Cher ami" means something different from one with a more generic salutation. The paper is a pleasure to read and to see presented at the conference. The committee is confident that it will have a large impact. Congratulations to the authors.