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Americas | International | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism

Argentina Battles in Two World Cups
by Andrew Hanauer
Friday Jun 13th, 2014 1:24 PM
While National Team Prepares to Face Bosnia, Government Fights Hedge Funds at US Supreme Court
While Argentina prepares to face Bosnia Sunday in the first round of the World Cup, the South American soccer power faces a second major contest in a very different venue. The United States Supreme Court will announce in June if it will hear Argentina vs NML Capital that impacts the operation of the global financial system. The Financial Times has called the case the "Debt Trial of the Century."

"If Argentina loses at the Supreme Court, not even the great Lionel Messi will be able to reverse the damage," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, a religious anti-poverty organization. "The stakes are high in this World Cup of debt and Argentina fans are watching the US Supreme Court as much as they are watching Brazil."

The case dates back to Argentina's 2001 default. While nearly 93% of the country's creditors agreed to a deal with Argentina to restructure its debts, a small group of hold-outs refused the deal and sued. This group included hedge funds that specialize in purchasing the distressed debt of impoverished countries and then suing to claim assets freed up to support poor populations through debt relief. Because these funds purchase debt for pennies on the dollar and then litigate to collect when a country is making a recovery or has assets from debt relief earmarked for the poor, these hedge funds are popularly referred to as "vulture funds."

"Argentina has a much bigger problem than anything it will face in Group F," added LeCompte, who works on four United Nations expert panels on debt and human rights. "These predatory hedge funds threaten to throw Argentina into default."

This week, a delegation of Argentine lawmakers arrived in Washington to thank the Obama Administration and US government for their support. In an allusion to the World Cup, Argentine Lower House Speaker Julian Dominguez presented US Congressman Xavier Becerra with a Lionel Messi jersey.

Numerous countries participating in the soccer tournament have connections to the Argentina/hedge fund dispute. France, Mexico, Brazil and the United States have filed briefs on behalf of Argentina at either the Supreme Court or the appeals court level. Ghana temporarily seized an Argentine ship for the hedge funds then released it after an order from the supreme court of Ghana. German courts have ruled in Argentina's favor in related lawsuits and Belgium and the United Kingdom have passed laws restricting these hedge funds. Honduras and Cameroon are among the countries that have been sued by these types of hedge funds. Representing 79 US Religious and Development organizations, Jubilee USA filed to the Supreme Court urging it to take the case because a court precedent will impact people living in extreme poverty.

"The Supreme Court's decision could equip predatory funds with a precedent that traps countries in poverty," added LeCompte. "There are two things most of the world agrees on, soccer is fun and exploiting poor people for profit is wrong."

Read how the International Monetary Fund is trying to help Argentina: http://www.jubileeusa.org/press/press-item/article/imf-reviews-international-financial-crises-solutions.html

Read a timeline and history of the case: http://www.jubileeusa.org/truth-about-debt/vulturefunds/argentina.html

Read Jubilee USA's Supreme Court Filing in Support of Argentina:http://jubileeusa.org/fileadmin/13-990__-991_Amici_Brief_filed_3-24-14.pdf


Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations, 400 faith communities and 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. http://www.jubileeusa.org
US Supreme Court justices will decide next steps in the Argentina vs NML Capital debt case today. The case dates back to 2001 when Argentina defaulted on its debts and a group of predatory hedge funds purchased some debt for pennies on the dollar. The hedge fund NML Capital leads a group of hold-out creditors in suing the country for more than $1 billion. The case will set a precedent that will impact the functioning of the global financial system. Supreme Court justices will decide to formally hear the case or ask the US Justice Department to issue an opinion.

US Supreme Court justices will decide next steps in the Argentina vs NML Capital debt case today. The case dates back to 2001 when Argentina defaulted on its debts and a group of predatory hedge funds purchased some debt for pennies on the dollar. The hedge fund NML Capital leads a group of hold-out creditors in suing the country for more than $1 billion. The case will set a precedent that will impact the functioning of the global financial system. Supreme Court justices will decide to formally hear the case or ask the US Justice Department to issue an opinion.

"It's most likely that the justices will ask the opinion of the US Solicitor General," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA and a member of United Nations expert groups focusing on this case. "Asking the opinion of the US government is good news for Argentina as the Justice Department has continually stood on the side of Argentina in this case."

If the Supreme Court asks the opinion of the US government we may not know until the end of the year if the case will be heard. In a related "discovery" case before the Supreme Court, the US government has sided with Argentina. In lower courts the US government has consistently argued that the hold-out creditors should take the same deal that nearly 93 percent of bondholders agreed to. The US Treasury and the White House continue to express support for Argentina because of the case's impacts on US bipartisan debt relief policy, global debt restructuring and poor country access to credit. In March, France, Brazil and Mexico all filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of Argentina before the Supreme Court. Jubilee USA also filed to the Supreme Court on behalf of 79 religious and development institutions urging the high court to take the case because of the impacts on world-wide extreme poverty.

In addition to Argentina's support from the religious community and the US government, the World Bank, legitimate investors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have all expressed their concern if the predatory hedge funds win. Last week, the IMF reaffirmed support for Argentina, declaring itself "deeply concerned" about the potential impact the case could have on the ability of countries to restructure their debts, allowing the global financial system to operate.

"The court's final decision will impact debt restructuring around the world and poor country access to credit," said LeCompte. "The stakes could not be higher."

Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations, 400 faith communities and 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. http://www.jubileeusa.org