NEW YORK – On July 30, Argentina’s creditors did not receive their semiannual payment on the bonds that were restructured after the country’s last default in 2001. Argentina had deposited $539 million in the Bank of New York Mellon a few days before. But the bank could not transfer the funds to the creditors: US federal judge Thomas Griesa had ordered that Argentina could not pay the creditors who had accepted its restructuring until it fully paid – including past interest – those who had rejected it.
It was the first time in history that a country was willing and able to pay its creditors, but was blocked by a judge from doing so. The media called it a default by Argentina, but the Twitter hashtag #Griesafault was much more accurate. Argentina has fulfilled its obligations to its citizens and to the creditors who accepted its restructuring. Griesa’s ruling, however, encourages usurious behavior, threatens the functioning of international financial markets, and defies a basic tenet of modern capitalism: insolvent debtors need a fresh start.