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Pari Passu VIPs and Mexico's CAC Gravitas

posted by Anna Gelpern

Today is the day for filing amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in NML v. Argentina (pari passu case). Brazil, France, Mexico, the Jubilee Network and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz are all asking the court to take the case. Others will doubtless come in on all sides; then the court might ask for the United States to say something ... it's a long story; stay tuned.

For now, I only highlight Mexico's priceless intervention against the courts' misuse of Collective Action Clauses (CACs)  in the pari passu argument. Recall that according to the Second Circuit, NML v. Argentina has no policy significance because CACs can be used since 2003 to bind holdouts in a sovereign debt restructuring. No holdouts, no lawsuits, no pari passu. This happens to be completely wrong because CACs specifically provide for dissent and mechanisms to hold out, and because not all debt instruments have CACs.

It is one thing for me to rant about it--but Mexico has unique credibility on CACs. In February 2003, Mexico spearheaded the very market shift in New York on which the court relies to make its totally wrong statement. And this amicus is not shy about its special status:

Mexico is thus well positioned to disagree with a stated foundation for the Court’s reasoning: that contract provisions in sovereign debt instruments known as “collective action clauses,” or “CACs,” will limit the decision’s ramifications to Argentina alone. CACs permit a specified majority of bondholders to adjust the terms of sovereign bonds. While Mexico adopted CACs for its own external debt instruments in 2003, and was the first nation to do so in the modern era, Mexico also understands that CACs have clear limitations and will not eliminate the threat to orderly debt restructuring engendered by the decision below. In addition, Mexico—like other nations—has legacy debt obligations with no CAC protection at all.

Preach.

Now, whether any of this adds up to review and reversal is another story ...

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