From Pari Passu to Par in Parem ? A Brief history of Argentina’s Sovereign-Debt Litigation and its Outcome

International Law Matters is pleased to welcome this guest post from Alexandre Belle.  Alexandre is a LLM student at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.  He completed his master’s degree in law at the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium. Follow him on twitter @Alexlubelle

Sovereign-debt litigation is interesting for two reasons. First of all, the topicality of the question is undeniable as demonstrated by recent US decisions and the emotion they provoked in the legal doctrine. But more than this, sovereign-debt litigation also reminds us of a fascinating and frightening reality: that a nation state, the cornerstone of modern society, can default. The sudden growth of litigation on sovereign debt also highlights the fundamentally hybrid nature of sovereign debt as an instrument created through contractual means in order to achieve a public purpose.

The purpose of this contribution is to focus on Argentina’s reconstruction and its troubles with US courts, as it constitutes a clear-cut example of the judicial, economic, and political issues on sovereign-debt litigation. At the origin of today’s litigation before US courts lies Argentina’s economic crisis between 1998 and 2001 that was caused by a forced deflation of Argentina’s economy and a lack of liquidity of the South American republic government.  This economic crisis led Argentina into the most important debt-restructuring process in history[1] ($85 billion dollars (US)). In 2005, cumbersome and fruitless negotiations with its creditors led Argentina to make a unilateral offer, proposing to pay $62.3 billion (US) of the total sum owed in principal[2]. Ninety-three percent of the bondholders accepted this offer; and since then, Argentina has fulfilled its obligation towards them. Continue reading


The Media and Investor-State Dispute Settlement: TTIP of the Iceberg?

International Law Matters is pleased to welcome this guest post from Edward Guntrip.  Edward Guntrip is Lecturer in Law at the Sussex Law School at the University of Sussex.  His research interests lie in international investment law. He completed his law degree at the University of Western Australia.  He earned his LLM in international law at the University of Cambridge, and he completed his PhD at Brunel University.  Follow him on twitter @ejguntrip. 

In the United Kingdom (UK), the mainstream and popular media has been reporting details of the proposed impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) (see for example, articles from the Independent, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Huffington Post). The TTIP is a trade agreement that is intended to minimise regulatory differences and remove trade barriers between the EU and the USA. The TTIP also seeks to open the market between the EU and the USA for investment and services. In the majority of stories discussing the TTIP, journalists and columnists have raised concerns regarding its potentially negative influence. There is apprehension concerning the possibility of increased privatisation of state-run healthcare services, the relaxation of environmental standards, and the introduction of food that does not comply with existing EU standards. Examples of these types of media reports can be found here and here. In addition, the media is warning the public about the threat of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) (see for example, here).

The potential impact of the TTIP on citizens of EU member states and the USA needs to be fully discussed, and a dialogue between all interested parties is to be encouraged. An open conversation could have easily been achieved had those negotiating the TTIP made the negotiating aims transparent from the outset. However, the mandate setting out the negotiating directives was only made public in October 2014 after seven rounds of negotiations. Given the recent change in policy regarding the transparency of the negotiations, the main source of information regarding the TTIP for the vast majority of people, so far, has been through reports in the media. Therefore, it is unfortunate that the debate has been presented to the public by the UK media in an incomplete manner. This practice has been most prevalent when the UK media discusses ISDS. Continue reading

So You Want To Be An International Lawyer?

This article, written by Catherine Baksi (@legalhackette), was originally published on the Guardian website at 10.57 EDT on Monday 1 October 2012. To view the original article, click here.

In the 1990s, the Pet Shop Boys urged everyone to go west, but these days, for UK international law firms, the opposite direction of travel is more attractive.

The increased globalisation of trade and state of the world economy means UK law firms are going east in search of clients and revenue.

On Monday, Herbert Smith, or Herbies as the city law firm is affectionately known, merges with Australian firm Freehills. Herbert Smith Freehills comprises 20 worldwide offices with 2,800 lawyers. The union will form the eighth largest law firm in the world and the largest law firm in Asia Pacific — one of the fastest growing legal markets in the world.

So, if you see yourself working on multi-jurisdictional corporate deals, energy projects or international arbitrations in the region how might you persuade firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills that you’re the right person for the job? “As well as being an absolutely first rate lawyer, you need a sort of cultural affinity. You’ve got to enjoy working with people from different cultural backgrounds,” says David Willis, managing partner at the firm. Continue reading

A Women’s Touch?

Catherine Samba-Panza’s position as the first female President of the Central African Republic (CAR) is a ray of hope for the country. As a woman, Samba-Panza’s gender is viewed as having a positive impact over the reconciliation process in the CAR.  Will it be possible for her to follow in the footsteps of President Sirleaf in ensuring that violent crimes against women are actually punished?

While many are hopeful, they express doubt in the longevity of Samba Panza’s impact on peace in the same breath. Their doubt is hinged on the presumed lack of continued international support. Although the longevity of international interest is rather important to the CAR attracting and retaining international donors to support its economic system, another issue has been overlooked: her short tenure as president.

When Samba-Panza was sworn in as “interim” president on January 23, 2014, there was an excitement around the world for change in the CAR. It seems that no one paid attention to the word “interim”.  As interim president, Samba-Panza’s term will only last a year, with elections to be held in February 2015.  As interim president, she is not allowed to run for office after the February 2015 elections. This begs the question: with a term only lasting one year, what real changes or reconciliation can President Samba-Panza bring about?  From an American perspective, it usually takes a sitting president at least one four-year term to implement change in a country.  American presidents even experience a period during their term in office known as the “lame duck” years, where their general effectiveness is stalled because they are on their way out.  With this perspective, it seems that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Samba-Panza to turn a country around that has not experienced real stability since it became independent from its colonial power– France in 1960. Not only will Samba-Panza need international support, but she will also need time. Continue reading

Marijuana legalisation in America: Here to Stay?

It was not long after a law was passed by the Uruguayan parliament to legalize cannabis in the country that its international legality was disputed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the United Nations’ (UN) drug-enforcement agency.  On 11 December 2013, the INCB stated that the bill contravenes the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 (the Convention), just over four months after the bill passed through Uruguay’s Congress.  The fact that Uruguay is the first INCB member state to pass such legislation suggests certain implications for other countries that have signed the Convention and have political parties that are inclined to pass similar legalization.  Whether legalization has been hampered worldwide by the INCB’s announcement is yet to be seen. Colorado, a state in the United States, entered the New Year as the first jurisdiction in the US where production, distribution, and possession of cannabis are now completely legal, according to state law.  However, the federal government, a signatory to the Convention, has still not given its sanction to the state’s new law, and cannabis remains illegal under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.  On the other hand, the fact that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated that they will not intervene in the state unless Colorado restricts possession and consumption of cannabis bought at Colorado’s enterprises to within the state’s borders suggests that the US government is essentially accepting the legality of its recreational use within US territory.

Continue reading