Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States began its new Fall session, and on one key high-profile issue it has declined to hear an appeal by the Government of Argentina against a US$1.33 billion judgement against it previously granted by the District Court of New York last Fall, which was subsequently upheld by the 2nd Circuit of the US. Federal Court of Appeals earlier this year.
Last week we reported that Judge Griesa of the New York District Court had put an order in place to prevent the Government of Argentina from trying to make an end run around its earlier award of US$1.33 billion against them in a complicated sovereign debt default case, one that has already been on-going for some years now.
The case had been brought by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. and other “vulture fund” investors including Aurelius Capital Management, who hold large holdings of defaulted Argentine sovereign bonds, which they acquired in the markets over a long period of time.
Argentina has been threatening that, rather than pay a penny on these old defaulted bonds as the judgment requires it to do if it continues to make payments on its current bonds, it would simply default on all its outstanding US$85 billion debt all over again. As part of its legal defences, however, the Government of Argentina had also asked leave to have the case reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States.
It was thought the Court might take up the case due to its potential impact on the foreign relations of the United States. Well that is no longer the case, at least for the moment though it may still not be the last word on the issue. The Supreme Court also gave no reasons for not taking up the case. “Argentina will keep exercising its right to defend itself with all available resources, ” its Finance Secretary Adrian Cosentino said Monday.
Argentina has in the mean time already asked the Appeals Court to convene a full “en banc” rehearing by its full court of the finding against it, that was adjudicated originally by one of its three-judge panels, and a stay of the judgment remains in place meanwhile while they consider this request.
This is likely very much a last ditch defence, as it seems the Second Circuit Court of Appeals almost never grants such “en banc” rehearings, and has done so only eight times in 30, 000 cases over a decade. But the legal manoeuvre buys their lawyers more time, and even if Argentina loses again the country will then still have the right the to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case one final time, which could put off the end-game for another year, or longer if in the end the Court did agree to take it up.
Acccordingly, while Paul Singer and his vulture fund co-investors currently look like they may have reason to celebrate they should hold off spending the money for a while yet.