Published on The New York Times.
Perhaps the most complex trial in history between a sovereign nation, Argentina, and its bondholders — including a group of United States-based hedge funds — officially came to an end yesterday when the Argentine Senate ratified a settlement.
The resolution was excellent news for a small group of well-connected investors, and terrible news for the rest of the world, especially countries that face their own debt crises in the future.
In late 2001, Argentina defaulted on $132 billion in loans during its disastrous depression. Gross domestic product dropped by 28 percent, 57.5 percent of Argentines were living in poverty, and the unemployment rate skyrocketed to above 20 percent, leading to riots and clashes that resulted in 39 deaths.
Unable to pay its creditors, Argentina restructured its debt in two rounds of negotiations. The package discounted the bonds by two-thirds but provided a mechanism for more payments when the country’s economy recovered, which it did. A vast majority of the bondholders — 93 percent — accepted the deal.