From an observer’s standpoint, the Argentina vs. the vulture holdouts battle has started looking less like the sophisticated legal interpretation of complex principles surrounding matters of sovereign debt, and more like an all out girl-on-girl cat fight, reminiscent of the high school in Mean Girls.
As Argentina cannot seem to score a win with the US justice system at the district or federal level, it attempted the sovereign disagreement equivalent of calling in the principal. Argentina asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ highest court for settling international disputes, to take action against the United States for committing “violations of Argentinian sovereignty and immunities … as a result of judicial decisions adopted by US tribunals.” The ICJ, often referred to as “The Hague” due to its location in that city in the Netherlands, shall not be hearing the case.
The ICJ will not hear the case because the Obama administration did not accept the court’s jurisdiction over the matter. A State Department spokeswoman reported on Friday 8 August 2014:
“We do not view the ICJ as an appropriate venue for addressing Argentina’s debt issues, and we continue to urge Argentina to engage with its creditors to resolve remaining issues with bondholders”
And since the ICJ must ask the United States’ permission before accepting any lawsuits against it (international law, so effective right?), Argentina’s sob story shall not be considered at The Hague.
While the ICJ will not be permitted to pick a side in the hair-pulling and name-calling going on between the United States and Argentina, Argentina is waging an extremely effective “hearts and minds” campaign that looks to be winning the popularity contest with the world.
Yes my friends, in this debacle I think the cool kids are siding with Argentina.
Last week, in his popular show Last Night Tonight, John Oliver took up the case of Argentina, vilifying the hedge funds as “super rich assholes” guilty of boat-jacking Argentine vessels. The video has been shared a million times on social media, but in case you haven’t seen it, click here. It’s well worth your time.
So perhaps Argentina’s international public opinion campaign against the vulture funds will in the end bear fruit. Judge Griesa has threatened to declare Argentina in contempt of court for its full page ad campaign demonizing the vulture funds, but Argentina does not care. The morality of the vulture funds’ actions are on trial in the courts of public opinion, and that is a battle they will undoubtedly lose. The popular kids are siding with Argentina.
The question remains if this moral verdict can trump the “technically legal” verdict of the US court system and sway the final outcome.