Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2010

The Empire Struck Back: The Mexican Oil Expropriation of 1938 Reconsidered

by Noel Maurer

Abstract

The Mexican expropriation of 1938 was the first large-scale non-Communist expropriation of foreign-owned natural resource assets. The literature generally makes three assertions: the U.S. government did not fully back the companies, Mexico did not fully compensate them for the value of their assets, and the oil workers benefitted from the change in ownership. This paper musters data and evidence that supports only the first of those assertions, and only to a limited extent: the companies devised political strategies that maneuvered Roosevelt into supporting their interests, and they were more than fully compensated by the Mexican government as a result.

Keywords: Non-Renewable Energy; Governance Controls; Business History; Ownership; Business and Government Relations; Natural Environment; Energy Industry; Mexico; United States;

Citation:

Maurer, Noel. "The Empire Struck Back: The Mexican Oil Expropriation of 1938 Reconsidered ." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-108, June 2010.