postings by Anna Gelpern

Puerto Rico: Colonial Chickens, Structural Priority, and Contingent Debt

posted by Anna Gelpern

It has been a humbling torrent of creativity, and I am honored to chip in a tuppence at the eleventh hour. After an existential preface, I consider how one might use (or resist using) federal credit enhancement in the inevitable debt exchange.

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Pari Passu Closing Ceremonies Quote Parade

posted by Anna Gelpern

Supplementing Mark's post, here are the many magic words, in order of their appearance in the Order ... reliving the saga like it was yesterday.

In 1994, the Republic began issuing bonds pursuant to a Fiscal Agency Agreement (“FAA”), which contains the famed pari passu clause...

Hey, it's not "equal treatment clause" anymore!

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Love and Exhaustion in Argentina

posted by Anna Gelpern

Further to Mark's post on the settlement negotiations, we now have an order from Judge Griesa that brings more love from New York to Argentina than it has seen in a decade, maybe ever.

The order, granted near-instantly on the Republic's request, tells the remaining holdouts (call them hyper-holdouts for short), to show the court by February 18 why it should not lift the pari passu injunctions. It turns the question, "Why should the court help Argentina?" into "Why not?"

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Puerto Rico: A Flash of Federal Ambition

posted by Anna Gelpern

After months of fielding criticism for standing idly by while Puerto Rico sank under a $72 billion debt heap, the Obama Administration is getting creative. On October 21, the U.S. Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Economic Council released a joint proposal for federal bankruptcy legislation to restructure all of Puerto Rico’s debts. Debt relief would come in exchange for fairly intrusive federal oversight, combined with Medicaid reform and federal tax relief to help mend the island’s fraying social safety net.

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Thoughts on the Greek Referendum and the Democracy Mismatch in Public Debt Crises

posted by Anna Gelpern

Today's Greek referendum might look like a high point for democratic accountability, but it is not. When Greek citizens vote on the demands of their government’s international creditors, the outcome will bind Greek politicians, but not the creditors that have prescribed economic policy for Greece since 2010. Instead, the European institutions and the IMF answer to a complex tangle of constituents outside Greece, including taxpayers in other countries that stand to lose money if Greece fails to pay its debts, and those who would suffer shock-waves from Greece abandoning the euro as its currency.

This democracy mismatch can lead to over-lending and over-borrowing based on flawed policies and improbable assumptions, which might have been rejected if the creditors had a more direct stake in the consequences of their prescriptions for Greece from the start. Tying a small portion of debt repayment to policy outcomes would improve accountability and help align incentives for the borrowing government and its creditors alike.

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More on AIG: Between Hysteria and Complacency

posted by Anna Gelpern

I agree with Adam about all that post-Starr hyperventilation. No, it does not mean that bailouts are over, that the Fed has been slapped down, or any of that lurid stuff. (Though tabloidness does feel strangely gratifying in financial journalism.) Nevertheless, we should be careful not to dismiss the AIG decision as a realist vignette. Its implications for crisis management will become clearer over time, and may well turn out to be important.

At first blush, Starr feels like a stock crisis move by the Court of Claims, evoking the Gold Clause cases in 1935, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Congress violated the 14th amendment when it stripped gold clauses from U.S. Government debt, but denied Court of Claims jurisdiction because the creditors suffered no damages. Had they gotten the gold, they would have had to hand it right over to the Feds. And if you measured the creditors' suffering in purchasing power terms, getting their nominal dollars back still put them way ahead of where they had been in 1918 thanks to all the deflation.

Putting this history together with Starr, I wonder about two implications. First, it would have to be awfully hard for a firm getting federal rescue funds in a systemic crisis to prove damages. See also the car bailout stuff. By definition, the firm's best case is the gray zone between illiquidity and insolvency (I called it "illiquency" back then). If you accept that a court is unlikely to enjoin a caper like AIG in the middle of a crisis, this gives the government a fair amount of scope to act, even if it turns out to be off on authority after the fact.

Second, the Greek mess makes me think that the real concern in crisis is not with ex ante constraints on bailouts working as planned, but rather with accidental institutional malfunction. At some point (not yet), all the sand in the wheels will create enough friction that policy makers will not be able to respond to a tail event in a sensible way. No institution would have the authority to do "whatever it takes," and no decision-maker would be willing to take the risk. Maybe this is as it should be, but it does give me pause. 

Ukraine's Bond Restructuring: Surgery, Conspiracy, and Campaign

posted by Anna Gelpern

Debt restructuring is the second largest source of outside financing for Ukraine’s new IMF program. The Fund itself brings $17.5 billion over four years; $9.6 billion comes from governments and other multilaterals (including Europe, the United States, and most recently, China), leaving $15.3 billion for the "debt operation." The jargon makes debt restructuring sound like a mix of surgery, conspiracy, and military campaign, which together pretty much sum up Ukraine's challenge.

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Russia's Bond: It's Official! (... and Private ... and Anything Else It Wants to Be ...)

posted by Anna Gelpern

Ukraine's bond restructuring talks are in high gear, and, as ever, Russia is trouble du jour. Not only is it threatening to hold out in the bond deal and take Ukraine to arbitration, Russia also seems poised to block IMF disbursements to Ukraine using an arcane Fund policy on "lending into arrears." My hunch is that this last risk is overblown, and in any event should not drive IMF policy or Ukraine's restructuring strategy. 

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