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Supersanctions and Sovereign Debt Repayment


  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Marc D. Weidenmier


Theoretical models have suggested that sanctions may be important for enforcing sovereign debt contracts (Bulow and Rogoff, 1989a, 1989b). This paper examines the role of sanctions in promoting debt repayment during the classical gold standard period. We analyze a wide range of sanctions including gunboat diplomacy, external fiscal control over a country's finances, asset seizures by private creditors, and trade sanctions. We find that "supersanctions," instances where military pressure or political control were applied in response to default, were an important and commonly used enforcement mechanism from 1870-1913. Following the implementation of supersanctions, on average, ex ante default probabilities on new debt issues fell by more than 60 percent, yield spreads declined approximately 800 basis points, and defaulting countries experienced almost a 100 percent reduction of time spent in default. We also find that debt defaulters that surrendered their fiscal sovereignty for an extended period of time were able to issue large amounts of new debt on international capital markets. Consistent with policies advocated by Caballero and Dornbusch (2002) for Argentina, our results suggest that third-party enforcement mechanisms, with the authority to enact financial and fiscal reforms, may be beneficial for resuscitating the capital market reputation of sovereign defaulters.

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  • Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2005. "Supersanctions and Sovereign Debt Repayment," NBER Working Papers 11472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11472
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    Cited by:

    1. Catão, Luis A.V. & Fostel, Ana & Kapur, Sandeep, 2009. "Persistent gaps and default traps," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 271-284, July.
    2. Eduardo Borensztein & Ugo Panizza, 2009. "The Costs of Sovereign Default," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 56(4), pages 683-741, November.
    3. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/601 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kim Oosterlinck & Loredana Ureche-Rangau & Jacques-Marie Vaslin, 2013. "Waterloo: a Godsend for French Public Finances?," Working Papers 0041, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    5. Mauricio Drelichman & Joachim Voth, 2007. "Lending to the borrower from hell: Debt and default in the age of Philip II, 1556-1598," Economics Working Papers 1164, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Nov 2009.
    6. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher M. Meissner, 2007. "Foreign Capital and Economic Growth in the First Era of Globalization," NBER Working Papers 13577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Alex Nikolsko-Rzhevskyy, 2010. "Does Trade Cause Capital to Flow? Evidence from Historical Rainfalls," NBER Working Papers 16034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Accominotti, Olivier & Flandreau, Marc & Rezzik, Riad & Zumer, Frédéric, 2008. "Black Man’s Burden: Measured Philanthropy in the British Empire, 1880-1913," CEPR Discussion Papers 6811, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Marc Flandreau, 2005. "Home Biases, 19th Century Style," Sciences Po publications n°5398, Sciences Po.
    10. Irwin, Gregor & Thwaites, Gregory, 2008. "Efficient frameworks for sovereign borrowing," Bank of England working papers 343, Bank of England.
    11. Ali Coskun Tuncer, 2009. "„What did guide investors decisions” during the classical gold standard era? The case of Ottoman Empire, 1880-1914," SEEMHN papers 2, National Bank of Serbia.
    12. Volosovych, Vadym, 2011. "Measuring financial market integration over the long run: Is there a U-shape?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(7), pages 1535-1561.
    13. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans‐Joachim Voth, 2011. "Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1205-1227, December.
    14. Nikolai Stähler, 2013. "Recent Developments In Quantitative Models Of Sovereign Default," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 605-633, September.
    15. Waldenström, Daniel, 2010. "Why does sovereign risk differ for domestic and external debt? Evidence from Scandinavia, 1938-1948," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 387-402, April.
    16. Rui Pedro Esteves, 2007. "Quis custodiet quem? Sovereign Debt and Bondholders` Protection Before 1914," Economics Series Working Papers 323, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    17. Juan J. Cruces & Christoph Trebesch, 2013. "Sovereign Defaults: The Price of Haircuts," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 85-117, July.
    18. Hauner, Thomas & Milanovic, Branko & Naidu, Suresh, 2017. "Inequality, Foreign Investment, and Imperialism," MPRA Paper 83068, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Häseler, Sönke, 2008. "Individual Enforcement Rights in International Sovereign Bonds," MPRA Paper 11518, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Marc Flandreau & Juan Flores, 2011. "Bondholders vs. bond-sellers? Investment banks and conditionality lending in the London market for foreign government debt, 1815-1913," Working Papers 0002, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    21. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2011. "Serial defaults, serial profits: Returns to sovereign lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-19, January.
    22. Christoph Trebesch & Michael G. Papaioannou & Udaibir S Das, 2012. "Sovereign Debt Restructurings 1950-2010; Literature Survey, Data, and Stylized Facts," IMF Working Papers 12/203, International Monetary Fund.
    23. Rohan Pitchford & Mark L. J. Wright, 2013. "On the contribution of game theory to the study of sovereign debt and default," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 649-667, WINTER.
    24. Taylor, Alan M. & Wilson, Janine L.F., 2011. "International trade and finance: Complementaries in the United Kingdom 1870-1913 and the United States 1920-1930," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 268-288, February.
    25. Mitchener, Kris James & Weidenmier, Marc D., 2010. "Supersanctions and sovereign debt repayment," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 19-36, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative

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