In one of its last-ditch attempts to avoid a definitive U.S. court ruling ordering it to pay hedge funds on its defaulted debt, Argentina is blasting the holdouts' demand for "equal treatment."
"For all plaintiffs' talk about 'equal treatment,' what they really want is… to enforce their contractual right to be paid a defaulted debt," the country's lawyers wrote in a filing with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. That court is set to hear arguments on Feb. 27 on whether Argentina must pay the holdouts, led by Elliott Associates, in order to continue paying the overwhelming majority of bondholders from its 2001 default who accepted debt exchanges in 2005 and 2010.
"Any claim to 'equal treatment' would be satisfied by treating all holdout creditors on the same terms a participants in the republic's 2010 exchange offer," Argentina continued. "Anything else is not equal treatment, but a preference that would violate Argentine law and public policy as well as fundamental principles of inter-creditor equity."
The U.S. government is supporting Argentina in the case. But Argentina has already lost one appeal before the Second Circuit, and the court's decision to accept Argentina's appeal of a ruling late last year that it had to pay Elliott and the holdouts came as a surprise to some.
The lower-court ruling could have forced Argentina to default on its exchange debt. Argentina has both vowed never to pay the holdouts and to comply with U.S. legal rulings, although it has said it will take the matter as far as the Supreme Court, if necessary.
The fight between the two sides has been nasty, with Argentina calling the holdouts "vulture investors" and their favorable court rulings "judicial colonialism," while Elliott briefly won the impounding of an Argentina naval vessel in Africa. Elliott founder Paul Singer recently wrote to investors complaining of Argentina's "hypocrisy" and "hawkish and incoherent hyperbole."