The history of Italian Stock Exchange: the birth (1808-1814)
The Milan Merchandise Exchange was formed by decree, issued by the Viceroy Eugène Napoléon, son of Joséphine de Beauharnais, on 16 January 1808, ordering that it be opened within a month. The decree also charged “a commission of fifteen members, including bankers, traders and merchandise brokers," appointed by the Minister of the Interior, to find temporary premises for the immediate opening, and a suitable building where the exchange could meet on a permanent basis. A second decree dated 6 February 1808 established the first regulations for the operation of the Stock Exchange.
Before the Napoleonic institution, exchange activities and sales of state bills were already carried out by auction in the Milan marketplace, as they were in the major Italian cities. Without going all the way back to the Medieval banks of the moneychangers and the merchant meetings held periodically at fairs, it is worth noting that these two founding decrees were preceded in 1807 by a petition of the Chamber of Commerce representing the Milanese merchant class. It requested the French authorities to re-establish a stock exchange “as it existed in the olden days” where it was possible to carry out “discounting for payment of bills.”
The urban development plan that was begun at the beginning of the 19th century to provide Milan with structures in keeping with its status as capital of the Cisalpine Republic included the construction of a monumental building for the Stock Exchange.
The intermediaries who already operated in the Milan marketplace under the name of "sensali" or brokers were defined as agents de change (agenti di cambio), following the French formulation. The real change introduced into Italy by the French laws of 1808 was the statist character of the Merchandise Exchanges. This is what continued to set off the Italian financial market until 1998, distinguishing it from the UK-US system in which Stock Exchanges were formed through the free association of the intermediaries.
The Milan Stock Exchange thus originally came into existence with an identity that responded partly to the interest of the local bankers to have a place to gather and conduct personal discounting, and partly to the desire of the French to have access to the widest and most highly organised market possible for underwriting public debt in competition with the London stock market.
On the basis of the law of 6 February 1808, the Milan Merchandise Exchange began official trading on Monday, February 15 in its temporary premises inside the public pawnbroking establishment (Monte di Pietà). On that date, the Chamber of Commerce appointed a director (sindaco) and four deputies additional members (aggiunti) with the task of presiding over the sessions and tracking the daily prices: the first director of the Stock Exchange was Carlo Ciani, a banker.
The premises in the public pawnbroking establishment assigned for the Exchange meetings soon proved to be inadequate, however. In November 1809, the Exchange was transferred to a few rooms on the ground floor of the Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, although not without protest from the Court of Appeal.
A complete set of regulations for the Merchandise Exchanges was published by decree of the Viceroy in March 1810, although many of the provisions it contained were not put into effect for some time, such as the drawing up of a register of authorised brokers and the election of the director and the deputies directly by the assembly of brokers.
In June 1813 the number of brokers and the fees they were due for each transaction were established: it is doubtful whether these regulations were applied during the brief period that preceded the restoration of the Austrian government.