Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



bond pricing, financial economics, sovereign debt, contracts


A critical question faced by any sovereign seeking to raise funds in the bond market is whether to issue the debt under foreign or local parameters. This choice determines other key characteristics of any bond issue such as which banks, lawyers, and investors will be involved. Most important though, this decision involves a tradeoff between the sovereign retaining discretion in managing the issue and relinquishing control of the issue to third parties to prevent the sovereign from expropriating wealth from bondholders in the future. Based on a sample of 17,349 issuances by 117 sovereigns between 1990 and 2015, we investigate this question in the context of the initial pricing of government bonds. We examine the three key factors that bear on this decision; governing law, currency, and exchange listing. We find that highly-rated sovereigns, with strong domestic institutions that protect investors, almost always issue debt under domestic parameters. In contrast, low-rated sovereigns with weak domestic institutions tend to issue debt under foreign parameters. These findings suggest that low-quality sovereigns are forced to issue debt under foreign parameters to assure investors that the sovereign will not act opportunistically to expropriate their wealth once the debt is issued. Put differently, low-quality sovereigns that issue debt under domestic parameters face a higher cost of capital.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Public debts, Bonds, Debt relief, International finance