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Spirit of Contradiction

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79 Religious and Development Institutions Join SCOTUS Filing in Argentina/NML Capital Case

category international | miscellaneous | opinion/analysis author Tuesday March 25, 2014 17:27author by Arielle Retrosi Report this post to the editors

Jubilee USA Network, a religious anti-poverty coalition, along with 78 other religious and development groups filed with the US Supreme Court in the case between Argentina and NML Capital

The Amicus Curiae brief takes the side of Argentina because the precedent of the case impacts predatory behavior on vulnerable populations. The friend-of-the-court brief argues that the case will have a detrimental impact on the poor, undo bipartisan United States debt policy and cause global financial instability. Filers joining Jubilee USA include: American Jewish World Service, Church World Service, Action Aid USA, numerous synagogues and churches across the US and a deluge of Catholic religious orders of nuns and priests. Read the full list of the 79 groups and Jubilee USA's Amicus Curiae.

"At the end of the day, this case is about a precedent that could expose developing economies to extreme predatory behavior," noted Kent Spriggs the attorney representing the 79 groups "The Supreme Court's decision will affirm or harm current bipartisan US debt policy."

The Supreme Court would likely decide by the summer whether or not it will actually hear the case. The case goes back to 2001, when Argentina defaulted on roughly $81 billion in debt. Multiple hedge funds purchased debt for pennies on the dollar. These hedge funds are called "vulture" funds because they prey on countries in financial distress and target assets that benefit poor populations. The nearly 93% of bondholders who restructured their debts with Argentina have seen the value of their bonds increase. The holdout hedge funds that are suing Argentina refused the deal several times and have instead sued for the full amount of the debt they purchased.

The Amicus brief quotes expert economists and lawyers, the International Monetary Fund, studies on debt, Adam Smith, Pope John Paul II and scriptures holy to Christians and Jews. "Our Supreme Court brief starts like a prayer, becomes a doctoral thesis summary and ends like a sermon," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network. "This case will impact millions of poor people around the world and they deserve a hearing."

In addition to Jubilee USA and its partners, Brazil, Mexico, France and Nobel Laureate and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz have announced their intention to file on behalf of Argentina. In addition to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank has strongly criticized the behavior of these hedge funds, and the United States government has sided with Argentina in a related case before the Supreme Court. The international consensus against this behavior mirrors the bipartisan consensus around the very debt relief policy threatened by the actions of these predatory funds.

The brief powerfully examines the impacts of the case on future debt restructurings, poverty and the international financial system. The following are quotes pulled out from Jubilee USA Network's friend-of-the-court brief as submitted for filing:

"Because using law to dispossess the poor for the pleasure of the powerful offends not only the sense of justice embodied in United States policy, but the even more ancient principles of biblical justice revealed in the scriptures of our faiths, we respectfully submit this amicus curiae brief requesting that the Court accept certiorari."
"The opinion...now threatens to unravel United States debt relief policy and undo much of the progress made on behalf of the poor."
"The presence of even a single holdout can deter otherwise cooperative creditors from agreeing to restructure a country's debt...the...decision below would make holding out and suing...the most rational strategy for creditors."
"Allowing the decision below to stand would...equip financial companies that prey on the poorest nations and people of the world with a game-changing legal precedent to accelerate their predation."
"If allowed to stand, the decision in this case...has the potential to generate systemic risks in the international system."
"Upholding the decision...would harm or frustrate numerous established policies of the United States...[that] began during the Bush administration and have been continued by the Obama administration."

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