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Argentina slams US judge in debt case, defies contempt threat

Argentina came out swinging on Wednesday against the US judge overseeing its debt default case, defying a threatened contempt order and dashing market hopes it might soon restart talks with the hedge funds suing the country. A group of holdout investors have gone to court for full repayment on sovereign bonds that went into default in 2002. The funds rejected debt restructurings in 2005 and 2010, holding out for better terms.

US District Court Judge Thomas Griesa, who has presided over the long-running legal battle, said on Friday he would issue a contempt order unless Argentina stopped claiming it had met its obligations and was not in default. Far from backing off, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said Griesa had not grasped the case's complexities and that no new talks had been scheduled with the hedge funds. "The proper conditions do not exist to negotiate," Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires.

In 2012, Griesa ordered Argentina to pay a group of holdout hedge funds led by Elliott Management Corp and Aurelius Capital Ltd $1.33 billion plus interest and barred it from repaying the holders of exchanged debt without paying the holdouts too. In June, Argentina deposited $539 million into the account of an intermediary bank to make a June 30 coupon payment. Griesa ruled the deposit illegal and ordered the money frozen.

As a result, Argentina effectively missed the coupon payment. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) will hold an auction on August 21 to settle Argentina's outstanding credit default swaps, Thomson Reuters' IFR reported from New York on Wednesday. Holders of the restructured bonds have meanwhile asked Griesa to allow Bank of New York Mellon to release the money so they can get paid, and Capitanich criticised the judge for not acting on those requests.

Copyright Reuters, 2014


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