Sovereign debt restructuring: A round-table discussion on the recent report by a UN Technical Study Group

Held on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 8.30-10.00am.


  • Benu Schneider (UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs)

  • Lee Buchheit (Cleary Gottlieb)

  • Deborah Zandstra (Clifford Chance)

  • Michael Waibel (Cambridge University)

  • Mark Stumpf (Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer)



At the end of August, the UN’s Department of Economic & Social Affairs published an important report on “market-based” approaches to sovereign debt rescheduling – something that it has been looking at for some time, but which has become more pressing with the problems of Venezuela and (most recently) Zimbabwe.

The report was prepared by a high-level Technical Study Group which had been given a specific mandate to look at:

  • the potential for standardizing bond and loan contracts (and for “improving” specific provisions and clauses);
  • ways to overcome so-called “holdouts”;
  • the potential for greater use of trust structures;
  • the extent to which reschedulings/restructurings need to be “pre-agreed” contractually;
  • the role of creditor committees;
  • the potential for contingent debt instruments – e.g. GDP-linked bonds;
  • the limitations of the “good faith” provision; and
  • the role of bank regulation.

The result is a detailed paper, presenting several dozen specific recommendations aimed primarily at market participants (including ICMA, the IIF and the LMA), though the aim is also to get broader endorsement from the IMF, the BIS, the G20 and the Paris Club.

This is (obviously) an important and timely initiative, and I am delighted that several of those most closely associated with the report have agreed to walk us through the argument and recommendations:

  • Lee Buchheit is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb in NY. He is the author of Sovereign Debt Management, and was rated by the FT as one of the ten “most innovative individuals” for his work on the Greek debt crisis.
  • Deborah Zandstra is a partner at Clifford Chance here in London. She is a member of ICMA’s sovereign bond working group, the ILA’s study group on sovereign insolvency and the IIF’s sovereign risk management committee.
  • Mark Stumpf, of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer in Washington, represented Venezuela for more than 35 years – going back to before the Brady Plan. He has also acted as Counsel to Zambia, Colombia, Panama and all points North and South.
  • Michael Waibel is co-deputy director of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at Cambridge, chair of the ILA study group on sovereign bankruptcy, and is the author of Sovereign Defaults before International Courts and Tribunals.

The coordinator of the Study Group is an old friend of the CSFI. Benu Schneider has just retired from her role as chief of the development finance and external debt unit at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. She is a former observer to the Paris Club, and policy advisor at both the ODI in London and the Reserve Bank in Mumbai.

Any initiative in this area is timely and welcome. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us, and perhaps share your own thoughts, please let us know by emailing or by calling the Centre on 0207 621 1056. As usual, coffee, tea and buns will be provided.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Hilton