Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay and Finance Secretary Luis Caputo met with Daniel Pollack, the Special Master (mediator) appointed by the US Court to oversee the negotiations with holdout funds, or “vulture funds” as we fondly call them here, this morning to present an offer regarding the payment of the sovereign debt.
The objective of President Mauricio Macri’s financial team is to lower the punishing interests that hover over Argentina’s debt, which the former Kirchner administration famously refused to pay. However, on entering the Downtown Manhattan office, Caputo told press to “not expect anything new today.” What a buzzkill.
Not that hopes have been running particularly high: current negotiations had already hit a wall as Argentina refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement demanded by the holdouts, with the vulture funds insisting the negotiations take place behind closed doors and the Argentine government seeking the greatest transparency possible. Despite this, Macri has reiterated the will to reach an agreement.
In any case, the meeting today has been shrouded in rumors. First, that Argentina’s offer would take 15 percent off the total amount to be paid, which right now is about US$ 10 billion. Second, that the holdouts’ lawyers did not participate in today’s meeting.
Today’s reunion was actually set to take place last week on January 25th but was postponed due to “logistical problems” on the holdouts’ side. (Car trouble? GPS didn’t work? Vultures’ sophisticated way of faking sick?) Caputo already met with Pollack on January 14th, accompanied by representatives of main bondholders as well as “me-too” bondholders, creditors who did not accept the debt’s restructuring back in 2005 but have not taken legal action against Argentina.
Quick reminder on what this is all about: after Argentina’s economic meltdown in 2001, the country defaulted on its international debt. A group of creditors purchased some of the defaulted bonds and refused to accept a debt restructuring plan that would have exchanged the original bonds for bonds worth 30 cents on the dollar, insisting instead the debt be repaid in full (hence the name “vultures.”) New York Justice Thomas Griesa ruled in their favor and Argentina is now faced with negotiating the payment.