Argentina asks U.S. court to block payouts for debt holdouts

Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:27am EST
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By Nate Raymond and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Argentina is urging a U.S. appeals court to reverse an order requiring the country to pay $1.33 billion to creditors who did not participate in its two debt restructurings, a legal case that could have huge ramifications for global debt markets.

Lawyers for Argentina's government said in court papers filed late on Friday that a trial judge was "wrong to ignore the chorus of voices" who opposed his November order on payments to so-called "holdout" creditors.

Those payments, to a court-controlled escrow account, would threaten the service of $24 billion in restructured debt, Argentina's lawyers wrote in papers filed in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

"There is no authority permitting a U.S. court to order a sovereign to bring its immune assets into the United States in order to 'turn over' or distribute them to its creditors," lawyers for the Argentine government said in the 69-page filing.

The appeals court is expected to decide next year whether to force Argentina to pay the $1.33 billion to investors in the defaulted debt. The decision could have broad impact on the ability of governments to raise money by selling bonds and on strained countries' response to economic crises.

The case stems from Argentina's $100 billion sovereign debt default 11 years ago. Argentina is trying to avoid paying the holdout creditors, who refused to take part in massive debt restructurings in 2005 and 2010.

About 92 percent of the bonds were restructured, giving holders between 25 cents and 29 cents on the dollar.

But the holdouts, led by Elliot Management Corp affiliate NML Capital Ltd and the Aurelius Capital Management funds, demanded to be paid in full. Argentina calls the holdouts "vultures" and has resisted.   Continued...