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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Vulture funds eyeing Venezuela hope to score big wins from crisis

The vultures are circling around Venezuela: Hedge funds in Venezuela are looking to mimic what their peers did in Argentina in 2001 by suing the borderline insolvent government to repay its debt, Colby Smith writes for the Financial Times. Paul Singer’s Elliott Management laid down the template for gunboat debt collection when it managed to reap USD 2.4 bn from the Argentinian government 15 years after it had defaulted. The FT says funds are now divided over whether suing the Venezuelan government has any legal basis, but all agree the timing is not quite right considering the food and humanitarian crises the country is facing.

Predatory funds can still do good though. Elliott Management’s squeezing of the Argentinian government resulted in Italian pensioners getting paid, Wall Streeter-turned-academic at American University Arturo Porzecanski, points out. Italian bondholders received a USD 1.35 bn payment from the Argentinian government in 2016, thanks to Singer’s pressure. Odette Lienau, a professor of law at Cornell University and Yale, also makes the argument that vulture funds are in a way holding government accountable for financial shortcomings or corruption. Whether these are good reasons for profiting off economic crises, we’ll let you decide.

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