Italian holdouts in Argentina debt dispute make play for cash
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Italian retirees holding defaulted Argentine debt from 2002 and who spurned Buenos Aires' restructuring offers are seeking to force Bank of New York Mellon to pay out their court judgments from frozen money due holders who accepted the government's terms.
In a further twist in the long-running sovereign debt dispute that has pushed Argentina once again into default, these so-called "other" holdouts said in a court filing late Thursday that the $539 million deposit that Argentina made to its indentured trustee, BNY Mellon, should go toward satisfying their U.S. court-awarded claims.
The deposit made on June 26, 2014 was deemed illegal by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa. In 2012 Griesa ruled Argentina could not make coupon payments on its restructured debt without also paying concurrently a group of holdout investors, separate from the Italians, an award of $1.33 billion plus interest.
Griesa ordered BNY Mellon to leave the money untouched until further instruction.
This group of holdouts, mainly made up of Italian pensioners, argue that the court has jurisdiction over BNY Mellon and therefore can go after that money, otherwise defined as an attachment, that has been sitting in its account held at the Central Bank of Argentina in Buenos Aires.
"That the Republic's funds are held in BNY Mellon's bank account located outside of New York is of no moment," the Italians argued.
"Based on the forgoing, an order should be issued directing BNY Mellon to turnover to Plaintiffs the $539 million, or so much of it as is sufficient to satisfy their judgments, plus post-judgement interest," the Italians' lawyers wrote.
There are approximately 40 plaintiffs included in the Italian group. Their judgments for $150 million on their principal investment were awarded in 2007.
After Argentina's 2002 default, the interest rate accruing on the Italian-held bonds under that judgment is 9 percent, the limit allowed under New York law, said the lead lawyer for the Italians, Anthony Costantini, from the firm of Duane Morris in New York.
Argentina and the holdouts, led by NML Capital Ltd, an affiliate of Elliott Management Corp and Aurelius Capital Management, failed to settle their dispute by July 30, causing the default on around $29 billion in debt restructured in 2005 and 2010.
This latest lawsuit, based upon an attachment argument against BNY Mellon, differs from at least three lawsuits filed in the last two weeks by investors who are riding the coattails of the Elliott/Aurelius judgment, which was based upon the principle of pari passu, or equal treatment. These are referred to as "me too" lawsuits.
In the case of the Italians, by design or accident, they are following the argument made by Buenos Aires in a legal notice published in U.S. newspapers on Thursday that exchange bondholders should sue BNY Mellon for their coupon payments.
Argentina argues it is not in default because it paid the money on bonds restructured in 2005 and 2010, seemingly leaving its trustee bank BNY Mellon to deal with any legal fallout.
Griesa ordered Argentina and the Elliott/Aurelius camp to appear in court on Friday at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) to hold a hearing "regarding recent statements" made by the Republic.
(Reporting By Daniel Bases Editing by W Simon)