Holdouts in Sovereign Debt Restructuring: A Theory of Negotiation in a Weak Contractual Environment

40 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2010 Last revised: 10 Jan 2011

See all articles by Rohan Pitchford

Rohan Pitchford

Australian National University (ANU)

Mark L. J. Wright

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Date Written: December 2010

Abstract

Why is it difficult to restructure sovereign debt in a timely manner? In this paper we present a theory of the sovereign debt restructuring process in which delay arises as individual creditors hold-up a set- tlement in order to extract greater payments from the sovereign. We then use the theory to analyze recent policy proposals aimed at ensuring equal repayment of creditor claims. Strikingly, we show that such collective action policies may increase delay by encouraging free-riding on negotiation costs, even while preventing hold-up and reducing total negotiation costs. A calibrated version of the model can account for observed delays, and finds that free riding is quantitatively relevant: whereas in sim- ple low-cost debt restructuring operations collective mechanisms will reduce delay by more than 60%, in high-cost complicated restructurings the adoption of such mechanisms results in a doubling of delay.

Suggested Citation

Pitchford, Rohan and Wright, Mark L.J., Holdouts in Sovereign Debt Restructuring: A Theory of Negotiation in a Weak Contractual Environment (December 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16632. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1730579

Rohan Pitchford (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601
Australia

Mark L.J. Wright

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis ( email )

90 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55480
United States

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