Journal Article

What Explains Sovereign Debt Litigation?


  • Schumacher
  • J.
  • Trebesch
  • C.
  • Enderlein
  • H.
Publication Date

We study the occurrence of holdout litigation in the context of sovereign defaults. The number of creditor lawsuits against foreign governments has strongly increased over the past decades, but there is a large variation across crisis events. Why are some defaults followed by litigation and others not? What explains the general increase in lawsuits? We address these questions using an economic model of litigation and a new data set capturing the near universe of cases filed against defaulting sovereigns. We find that creditors are more likely to litigate when debt restructurings are large, when governments impose high losses (haircuts), and when the defaulting country is more vulnerable to litigation (open economies and those with a low legal capacity). We conclude that sovereign debt lawsuits can be predicted reasonably well with a simple framework from the law and economics literature.

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