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Americas | U.S. | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism

Argentina Files Final Supreme Court Appeal in Global Hedge Fund Debt Case
by Arielle Retrosi, Jubilee USA Network
Friday Feb 14th, 2014 12:25 PM
Religious Community Joins IMF, Legitimate Investors and Governments in Opposing Exploitative Hedge Fund Behavior
WASHINGTON - February 14 - Argentina will file its final US Supreme Court appeal in the NML Capital hedge fund debt case before this Monday, February 17th. Legal observers, economists, investors, the United Nations, the Obama Administration, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the religious community have closely monitored the proceedings.

"The final outcome affects poverty around the globe, over a decade of US bipartisan debt policy and the profits of legitimate investors," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious debt campaign, Jubilee USA Network. "The religious community applauds the global consensus to deter and not reward this exploitative, predatory behavior."

Argentina's Supreme Court filing responds to a US 2nd Circuit Court ruling ordering the country to pay $1.33 billion to predatory hedge funds and other holdout bond holders. A final ruling in favor of the holdouts will hurt poor countries in financial distress and could allow a small group of hedge funds to target assets that benefit vulnerable populations. At the same time, the majority of debt holders who previously restructured their debt with Argentina have hired lawyers to help negotiate the dispute between holdout hedge funds and Argentina. Nearly 93% of debt holders restructured their debt with Argentina after the 2001 default. The restructured bondholders are concerned that their settlements could be disrupted if hedge funds win the final ruling. In a separate case currently before the Supreme Court, Argentina sought review of a lower court decision allowing NML Capital to seek information about Argentina's non-US assets. The United States filed an amicus brief in support of Argentina, arguing that Argentina's assets are immune from seizure under federal sovereign immunity law.

"These hedge funds hurt legitimate investors and poor people," said LeCompte, "The IMF, World Bank and White House are right that this extreme behavior takes advantage of the world's poorest people."

Interested parties will now have 30 days to file an amicus or friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to accept the case. The Supreme Court would likely decide by the summer whether or not it will actually accept this final appeal. These cases go back to 2001, when Argentina defaulted on roughly $81 billion in debt. Multiple hedge funds purchased debt for pennies on the dollar. These hedge funds are called "vulture" funds because they prey on countries in financial distress and target assets that benefit poor populations. The nearly 93% of bondholders who restructured their debts with Argentina have seen the value of their bonds increase. The holdout hedge funds that are suing Argentina refused the deal several times and have instead sued for the full amount of the debt they purchased.

The opposition to vulture funds is widespread. Similar hedge fund claims against Argentina have been rejected by courts in Germany, and France filed an amicus brief in support of Argentina in a previous appeal to the Supreme Court. In numerous court proceedings, the US government filed an amicus brief in support of Argentina, arguing that a ruling against Argentina could make it much more difficult for countries in financial recovery or facing economic stress to access credit and debt swaps. The IMF has also weighed in on the case, saying that the result would have major implications for how future sovereign debt is restructured.

"There finally seems to be an endgame in sight," noted LeCompte. "The question now is will the final ruling protect our global economy from this extreme behavior or encourage this harmful hedge fund behavior."

Read more about this case on our website.

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Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 80 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
High Court Consideration Impacts Global Debt and Extreme Poverty

Argentina officially requested that the US Supreme Court hear an appeal in a debt case that will impact people living in extreme poverty around the world. The case dates back to Argentina's 2001 default, after which 92% of all Argentine bond holders restructured their defaulted debt. Predatory hedge fund, NML Capital leads a small group of holdouts who won judgments for payment in lower US Courts. NML Capital never invested in Argentina and bought the debt cheaply after Argentina's default. Because sovereign lending is contracted in the United States, the precedent the case sets impacts some of the poorest economies around the globe and allows these hedge funds to target assets that benefit poor people. The International Monetary Fund, the Paris Club, legitimate investors, the US and most governments oppose this predatory behavior because it cancels the benefits of debt relief, makes sovereign debt restructuring more difficult and limits credit to poor countries.

"This particular legal case will have some of the most significant impacts on global poverty in our lifetimes,"; shared Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, a religious antipoverty organization. "It's encouraging that there is a global chorus that decries this harmful predatory behavior."

The religious community and antipoverty advocates continue to monitor the case because it impacts those living in extreme poverty. In late April, the US Supreme Court is hearing a separate but related case between Argentina and the same holdouts led by NML Capital. The Supreme Court will determine when and where certain Argentine assets can be targeted for payment collection. The United States government has filed in support of Argentina for the April hearing.

For a timeline on the Argentina/NML Capital case visit here. Read an in-depth press update here