New Draft Research: Sovereign Funds and Domestic Political Legitimacy

This paper, forthcoming as a book chapter in the Oxford University Press Handbook on Sovereign Wealth Funds, builds on work by Gordon Clark, Adam Dixon, Ashby Monk and others in discussing the domestic political risks faced by SWFs.  Comments welcome!

As Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) mature and as the literature describing and analyzing SWFs continues to develop, some of the primary concerns that initially animated SWF analysis — namely, SWFs as a sign of shifting financial power, SWFs as potential political actors, and the corresponding protectionist responses from governments — have turned to fundamental concerns about how SWFs are governed. Even within this literature, however, questions of governance are often focused not on the domestic impacts of SWF governance, but on SWF governance as risk mitigation for other entities and governments. For some analysts and regulators, SWFs must be quarantined; little thought is given to the health of the SWF itself, so long as it does not adversely affect other entities.

This draft chapter (forthcoming, Oxford University Press Handbook on Sovereign Wealth Funds) discusses SWF governance as a domestic political issue, and not merely as an international political issue. In particular, this chapter adds to the literature on the domestic legitimacy of SWFs, and how poor management of SWFs can create or exacerbate domestic political risks. Among the threats to legitimacy are issues involving ultimate ownership of the fund, corruption, unclear of shifting purposes of the fund and the use of the fund’s earnings, and misalignment of the fund with societal mores and interests.

The paper is available for download here.