The article Comity and Sovereign Debt Litigation: A Bankruptcy Analogy (2004) by Stephen M. Bainbridge appears in Maryland Journal of Int’l Law and Trade, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1986. It is also available on SSRN.
On repeated occasions in the post-war period, the cumulative effects of policy mistakes, recessions, inflation, and other economic problems have made it difficult for sovereign debtors to service their external debt. Unlike a domestic U.S. private debtor, who may resort to formal bankruptcy procedures in the event of insolvency, a defaulting sovereign debtor has no formal mechanism for triggering a restructuring of its debt.
In some cases, sovereign debtors have resorted to a moratorium on debt payments. This article argues that U.S. courts ought to give effect to such moratoria under the international law principle of comity. Using standard game theory methodology (the so-called “creditors dilemma” variant of the famous “prisoners dilemma”), the article argues that creditors of such debtors would agree in advance to give effect to such a moratorium provided it neither repudiated the sovereign’s debts not gave preference to certain creditors. A legal test for granting comity to sovereign debt moratoria is therefore proposed.
Citation: Bainbridge, Stephen M.,Comity and Sovereign Debt Litigation: A Bankruptcy Analogy. Maryland Journal of Int’l Law and Trade, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1986. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=302009 or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.302009