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Deterring Holdout Creditors in a Restructuring of PDVSA Bonds and Promissory Notes

The prospect of the potential mischief that may be caused by holdout creditors in a Venezuelan sovereign debt restructuring is probably the main reason why the Maduro administration has not attempted such an exercise. The next administration in Venezuela — whenever and however it may arrive — will not want for suggestions about how to minimize or neutralize this holdout creditor threat. This short article is another contribution to that growing literature. Were the Republic of Venezuela to acknowledge that there really is only one public sector credit risk in the country, and that the distinction between Republic bonds and PDVSA bonds is an artificial construct, the Republic could offer to exchange PDVSA bonds for new Republic bonds at par. This would be the preliminary to a generalized debt restructuring of some kind affecting all outstanding bonds. The question will be, as it always is, how to discourage PDVSA creditors from declining to participate in such an exchange offer. One method might be for PDVSA to pledge all of its assets to the Republic in consideration for the Republic's assumption of PDVSA's indebtedness under its outstanding bonds and promissory notes. This is a step expressly permitted by PDVSA's bonds and promissory notes. Existing PDVSA creditors would be perfectly free to decline to exchange their exposure for new Republic bonds, but they would face the prospect that a senior lienholder (the Republic) would have a first priority claim over any PDVSA assets that the holdout may attempt to attach to satisfy a judgment against PDVSA. That realization should make them think twice about the wisdom of holding out.