Deconstructing Delays In Sovereign Debt Restructuring

David Benjamin

Mark L. J. Wright, Senior Vice President and Director of Research

July 2018 | Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Working Paper 753

Negotiations to restructure sovereign debt are time consuming, taking almost a decade on average to resolve. In this paper, we analyze a class of widely used complete information models of delays in sovereign debt restructuring and show that, despite superficial similarities, there are major differences across models in the driving force for equilibrium delay, the circumstances in which delay occurs, and the efficiency of the debt restructuring process. We focus on three key assumptions. First, if delay has a permanent effect on economic activity in the defaulting country, equilibrium delay often occurs; this delay can sometimes be socially efficient. Second, prohibiting debt issuance as part of a settlement makes delay less likely to occur in equilibrium. Third, when debt issuance is not fully state contingent, delay can arise because of the risk that the sovereign will default on any debt issued as part of the settlement.