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Bargaining and Sustainability: The Argentine Debt Swap of 2005.

When Argentine sovereign default in December 2001 led to a collapse of the peso, the burden of dollar debt became demonstrably unsustainable. But it was not clear what restructuring was feasible, nor when. Eventually, in 2005 after a delay of more than three years, a supermajority of creditors accepted a swap implying a recovery rate of around 37 cents in the dollar. In this paper a bargaining approach is used to explain both the settlement and the delay. We conclude that the agreed swap broadly corresponds to a bargaining outcome where the Argentine government had “first mover” advantage: and that substantial delay occurred as negotiators seeking a sustainable settlement waited for economic recovery. Factors not explicit in the formal framework are also considered -- heterogeneity of creditors, for example, and the role of third parties in promoting “good faith” bargaining.