Document Type


Publication Date



sovereign debt, debt restructuring, bailouts, default, CACs, Collective Action Clause, IMF, International Monetary Fund


The recent financial woes of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and other nations have reinvigorated the debate over whether to bail out defaulting countries or, instead, restructure their debt. Bailouts are expensive, both for residents of the nation being bailed out and for parties providing the bailout funds. Because the IMF, which is subsidized by most nations (including the United States), is almost always involved in country debt bailouts, we all share the burden. Yet bailouts are virtually inevitable under the existing international framework; defaults are likely to have systemic consequences, whereas an orderly debt restructuring is currently impractical. This article analyzes and compares debt restructuring alternatives to bailouts. Under a free-market option, sovereign debtors and their creditors attempt to consensually negotiate a debt restructuring, aided by collective-action clauses and by exchange offers with exit consents. Under a statutory option, sovereign debtors and their creditors would be bound by an international convention that sets forth a process to facilitate debt restructuring. The absence of any systematic comparison of these options has made it difficult to facilitate country debt restructurings. This article attempts to provide that comparison.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Public debts, Debt relief, Default (Finance), International Monetary Fund, Bailouts (Government policy)