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Repo Man Envy, Argentina-Elliott Edition

posted by Anna Gelpern

A court in Ghana has "detained" an Argentine navy ship with over 200 sailors on board, as part of the continuing effort by Elliott Management to get paid on defaulted government bonds. This is so wacky, it should be a movie.

The Libertad is a lovely sailing ship that once held a transatlantic crossing record, and is now used to train Argentine sailors. As a navy vessel, it is likely covered by sovereign immunity. Even if Elliott gets to keep the beauty, selling it would be a whole lot of hassle (do research immunity law before you bid). Even if the ship fetches the high end $15 million, it would be a drop in the bucket to Elliott's holdings. Money is not the point here. The point is to hassle the Argentine government and show those who might be tempted to follow its example that Elliott means business. But would a government as determined as this one to resist Elliott in particular ever cave in?  If anything, the ship caper sets up a testosterone contest. Elliott shows that it is willing to "scour the Earth" for Argentina, and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner shows that she can lead the resistance to "bond vigilantes."

Then again, if I were Elliott, I might want to keep the Libertad for sentimental value.


I wonder about the law of war, much less sovereign immunity. Is seizure of a warship a casus belli?

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