Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vulture funds

I might not like it too much if a vulture-fund-manager invited any of my daughters out to celebrate a killing in Zambia debt but, having said that, neither am I so sure that the world would be a better place without the vulture funds.

That some can find opportunities in buying uncollectible loans and squeeze fortunes out of them when others have decided to clean up their books, is just part of the circle of life, and part of the same market mechanism which signals how much, or how little, the loans are worth, since the price of a loan indicates the expectations of collecting on an outstanding loan and not the expectations of collecting on a “pardoned” loan. Yes, the vulture funds are into an ugly business, cleaning up among corpses, but, by their sheer presence, they might perhaps even help to reduce the number of infections and consequent deaths.

Most, or perhaps all of the scholar papers on restructuring or condoning of sovereign debt, state as the explicit purpose of the whole exercise, that of enabling the countries to regain access to the international capital markets again, something which reads like the torturer waking up his fainted victim in order to start all over again.

In this respect, if you need to pick on one, you might also choose to do so at that moment of the circle of life when the new born debt-overhang-ridden country gets thrown out to start defending itself again from the many dogs-of-finance roaming out there, and often guided by the same old lousy government that previously messed it up.

There is so much written about freeing up the countries in order for them to access the markets while comparatively so little about how they should go about to avoid repeating the same mistakes, and so perhaps I should also frown when it is a regular investment banker, or a good hearted MFI banker, or even just an over-illusioned activist who knocks on my door and asks for my daughter.