The recent rise in sovereign debt litigation in the US Federal Court System is an unintended consequence of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 related to an unanticipated shift of the international sovereign debt market from a narrow loan market to a global bond market. Collective action clauses (CACs) — developed in 2003 and “enhanced” in 2014 — are, in theory, an effective contract-based tool to facilitate orderly debt restructurings and control the holdout creditor problem. However, compliance by countries is voluntary and may not be sustained. To assure sustained compliance and to reduce the future incidence of holdout creditor litigation, the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act should be amended to provide that only bonds with enhanced CACs will be subject to suit and enforcement in the US courts.
CIGI Senior Fellow Gregory Makoff researches issues in international financial policy, including the management of sovereign debt crises. He is an expert in sovereign debt and an experienced debt capital markets professional.