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

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  • Rohan Pitchford
  • Mark L. J. Wright

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

  • Rohan Pitchford & Mark L. J. Wright, 2010. "Holdouts in Sovereign Debt Restructuring: A Theory of Negotiation in a Weak Contractual Environment," NBER Working Papers 16632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16632
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law

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