The article written by Robert Shapiro on June 28, 2012, in response to my essay “Vulture funds and their myths about Argentina” underestimates the readers of The Hill.
It is important to understand that while he has worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce in the past, Shapiro currently is the active co-chair of the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), an organization mostly supported by vulture funds that are domiciled outside the United States in tax heavens. To date, ATFA has spent almost $3 million dollars to aggressively lobby against Argentina in the United States Congress and in the New York State Assembly. His latest article intentionally distorts facts, misinterprets figures to confuse U.S. taxpayers, and, due to a severe lack of knowledge of those issues with which he is not familiar, makes a series of false and grave accusations - a boundary vulture funds commonly cross - regarding matters that go beyond the financially reckless interests Shapiro represent.
Let me reiterate that Argentina regularized its debt obligations in a responsible manner and thanks to the sacrifice of the Argentine people. Argentina is committed to finding a comprehensive solution to its debt issue, but only as long as all of its creditors are treaty equally and fairly.
Vulture funds: “[Argentina owes] $3.5 billion to Americans … [it] refuses to pay”
Facts: Argentina has successfully settled 92% of its debt despite the complexity of its debt-restructuring process. Its only outstanding debt issue that is not close to being solved is the one linked to sovereign debt profiteering. As of now, more than 90% of the amount of the claims brought against Argentina before U.S. courts belong to non-US citizens and/or private entities, some of which belong to individuals who have renounced their U.S. citizenship to avoid paying taxes, that are domiciled in tax heavens and whose predatory tactics have allowed them to obtain court judgments that imply profits estimated at about 5000% of their original investment. The impact of the unresolved Argentine defaulted debt on U.S. citizens is minimal ($300 million approximately) and almost insignificant to U.S. taxpayers.
Vulture funds: “Argentina issued paltry offers”
Facts: The debt restructuring process offered bondholders of Argentine defaulted debt an equitable solution that benefited from Argentina’s impressive GDP growth. The U.S. Congressional Research Service estimated the value of the 2005 debt swap to be 60 cents on the dollar. However, if one takes into account the performance of GDP-linked coupons, the haircut is estimated to have been 40 percent, not 75 percent as Shapiro often loosely states.
Vulture funds: “Argentina has refused to honor 104 U.S. federal court judgments”
Facts: Argentina has fully cooperated with the U.S. judiciary. However, international law and the lack of an internationally agreed regime to deal with sovereign defaults concede Argentina to uphold its position whereby nobody is paid more expeditiously or in better terms than U.S. bondholders that accepted the terms of the debt based on basic notions of fairness and non-discrimination.
Vulture funds: “…the Obama Administration and both houses of the U.S. Congress have repeatedly demanded that Argentina meet its legal obligations”
Facts: In her meeting with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the City of Buenos Aires, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton stated the following: “… I think that Argentina has made a tremendous amount of progress in paying down its debt. And the president and I were talking about the progress, which is very dramatic, just in the last several years. And I confessed to her that so far as I know, based on the figures, Argentina’s debt-to-GDP ratio is a lower percentage now than the United States debt-to-GDP ratio. So however Argentina is doing it, it’s working”
ATFA has attempted to pressure Argentina through the U.S. Congress. Although ignored by the majority of Members of Congress, they have been able to persuade some legislators who have introduced tailor-made legislation against Argentina. The two bills and the two resolutions introduced during the current congressional session have only gained support from less than 6% of the members of the United States Congress.
It is striking to see how aggressively Shapiro attacks Argentina virtually on any subject to make my country a caricature. Regarding Shapiro’s opinions vis-à-vis the matters that go beyond the interests Shapiro represent, though, I will obviously not dignify them with an answer.
Only in the context of a fictional country where everything is negative, Shapiro and vulture funds would have any possibility of gaining any support and impose their claims. If they had one, their motto would be “the worse, the better”.
Argûello is Argentina's Ambassador to the United States.