On Monday Judge Thomas Griesa found Argentina in contempt of a U.S. Court ruling — the Judge will decide on how to punish the nation later.
A few ideas have been thrown around, though. One option is that the country be fined $US50,000 a day until it pays a group of hedge fund creditors, helmed by billionaire investor Paul Singer, over $US1.3 billion.
The hedge fund creditors suggested that punishment last week.
This is all part of a lawsuit that’s been going on for around a decade. The creditorsin question bought Argentine sovereign debt during the country’s last crash in 2001. Unlike a bunch of other investors, though, they refused to take a haircut on that debt in 2005 and 2010.
Argentina saw that refusal as a slight, called the creditors “vultures” and refused to pay them. The ensuing court battle went all the way to The Supreme Court, ending in victory for the creditors this summer.
Still, Argentina would not pay. As a result, the country went into default at the end of July.
The contempt ruling doesn’t just come from non-payment though. After Argentina went into default its leaders went on a media rampage claiming that no such default had occurred. They even took out ads in U.S. papers like the New York Times.
Then the country passed a law effectively nullifying Judge Griesa’s ruling, and taking the bonds in question out of U.S. jurisdiction.
The message was clear, if you want your money, you have to go to Argentina to get it.
Which means if you want your money, you’ll only get it only if Argentina wants to give it to you.
On Friday the country’s rhetoric softened slightly. Presidential Cabinet head Jorge Capitanich said it will only negotiate with creditors in the first quarter of 2015 if a stay is put on all payment, effectively taking the country out of default.
At the hearing, Argentina argued that finding it in contempt would harm “the dignity of foreign states” — basically saying contempt is too embarrassing for a single nation.
What is certain is that Argentina can’t do this forever. Its economy is suffering from high inflation and low commodities export prices. Barclays estimates that by this time next year, the country could have about $US10 billion in the bank.
So maybe even that $US50,000 a day will be a headache for Argentina.
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