Katharina Pistor is a leading scholar and writer on corporate governance, money and finance, property rights, and comparative law and legal institutions.

Pistor is the author or co-author of nine books. Her most recent book, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality, examines how assets such as land, private debt, business organizations, or knowledge are transformed into capital through contract law, property rights, collateral law, and trust, corporate, and bankruptcy law. The Code of Capital was named one of the best books of 2019 by the Financial Times and Business Insider.

Pistor publishes widely in legal and social science journals. In her essay “From Territorial to Monetary Sovereignty” in the Journal on Theoretical Inquiries in Law (2017), she argued that the rise of a global money system means a new definition of sovereignty: the control of money. She has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Institutional Economics, European Business Organization Law Review, American Journal of Comparative Law, and Columbia Journal for European Law.

Pistor is a prominent commentator on cryptocurrency and has testified before Congress on the lack of regulatory oversight of proposed international cryptocurrencies. As the director of the Center on Global Legal Transformation, Pistor directs the center’s work to develop research projects and organize conferences to examine ways in which law shapes global relations and how they, in turn, transform the law.

Before joining Columbia Law School in 2001, Pistor held teaching and research positions at Harvard Law School, the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Law in Hamburg. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, New York University Law School, Frankfurt University, London School of Economics, and Oxford University.

Pistor is a research associate with the Centre for Economic Policy Research and has served as principal investigator of the Global Finance and Law Initiative (2011–2013) and member of the board of directors (2011–2014) and 2019 fellow of the European Corporate Governance Institute. In 2015, she was elected a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

In 2012 she was co-recipient (with Martin Hellwig) of the Max Planck Research Award on International Financial Regulation, and in 2014 she received the Allen & Overy Prize for the best working paper on law of the European Corporation Governance Institute. She is also the recipient of research grants by the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the National Science Foundation.

By this expert

Coding Private Money

Article | Jun 3, 2019

The state has long used law to back private money—with dire consequences, then and now

Ten Years after Bear Stearns, U.S. Financial Stability Is again in Danger

Article | Mar 12, 2018

Banks are pushing for deregulation and roll backs of Dodd-Frank’s regular check-ups on their financial health. We should be worried. 

German Court decision: Legal authority and deep power implications

Article | Feb 26, 2014

Who wields supreme power over the ECB? This column analyses the recent ruling by the German Constitutional Court that the ECB cannot act as lender of last resort. Although seemingly couched by the referral of this decision to the European Court of Justice, this is a bid for power and the return to the pre-crisis paradigm of ‘ultra posse nemo obligatur’.

America’s Debt-Ceiling Debacle

Article | Oct 22, 2013

When Greece’s sovereign-debt crisis threatened the euro’s survival, U.S. officials called their European counterparts to express bewilderment at their inability to resolve the issue.

Featuring this expert

Coding Capital

Video | Feb 23, 2022

This law is my law, this law is your law…

Legal Evil

Video | Jan 19, 2022

From feudal land rights to intellectual property in the modern era, lawyers have been battling over capital for centuries. Typically leveraging social resources to generate and protect private wealth.

YSI Asia Convening 2019

YSI Event Regional Convening YSI | Aug 12–14, 2019

Hundreds of young scholars from all over Asia are coming together in Hanoi to discuss new economic thinking, present their research, and work with over 30 senior scholars. Join us there and become a part of YSI’s global community!

Creating A Legal Foundation For Finance

Video | Sep 4, 2014

How does the law interact with finance? Katharina Pistor on the paradoxical relationship between law and finance.