It´s Argentina versus the judges. After losing a flagship navy vessel upon the verdict of a Ghanaian court, the nation of the pampas is now at risk of losing a lot of money (or its good name in credit circles) upon the verdict of a New Yorkian court. The now world-famous judge Thomas Griesa has ordered Argentina to pay its so-called holdout bondholders in full before it repays what it owes those other creditors who in contrast chose to participate years ago in the country´s debt restructuring. That is, unless Argentina ponies up the full $1.3 billion claimed by those who refused to accept a haircut, it would not be allowed to pay a cent to anybody else (in the US, at least). This would constitute an instant default.
This has a Greek-ish ring to it, of course. Again, holdouts may end up getting paid 100 cents on the dollar while non-holdouts (“those fools!”) have to make do with 40, 30, 20 cents. Refusing to cooperate in a crucial restructuring and patiently holding on for a number of years (or mere days, as in the Hellenic case) appears to pay off. Not surprising, then, that similar players (Elliott Management) prominently show up in both cases.
An appeals court has for now supposedly ruled judge Griesa out. The globe breathlessly watches how this whole thing develops from now on. President Cristina Fernandez has publicly lambasted those “vultures” who actually want to get back everything they lent to Argentina, and has vowed never to pay them in full or at all.
Sovereign debt continues thus to rabidly front the headlines. Imagine a world where governments did no borrow (too much) money, how many less headaches that would cause?