Don't comply for me Argentina

By Jayati Ghosh and Matías Vernengo

Argentina is in the news again. The country that successfully managed an external debt restructuring after a major financial crisis in 2001-02, and eschewed the standard austerity package to benefit from a remarkable economic recovery, is being attacked by a combination of court rulings and aggressive moves in financial markets.

Elliott Capital Management, a vulture fund based in the tax haven Cayman Islands owned by conservative financier Paul Singer (a big donor to the Romney campaign), refused to accept the terms of the debt restructuring that was accepted by more than 92% of bondholders in 2005 and 2010. It has demanded payment in full, and has actively pursued its case in different courts across the world. A few months ago, the Argentine frigate Libertad, which ironically means freedom in Spanish, was seized in Ghana after a local judge ruled in favour of Elliott Capital Management. Judge Thomas Griesa has recently ruled in a district court in New York that the Argentinian government must pay $1.3bn to the same vulture fund – the full face value of their holdings plus accumulated interest starting in late 2001 – on the basis of an unusual interpretation of the pari passu clause in debt contracts.

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