Sovereign Debt and Moral Hazard: The Role of Collective Action and Contractual Uncertainty
Series number :
- Sovereign debt •
- pari passu clauses •
- collective action •
- strategic bargaining
The ambiguous phrasing of pari passu (equal treatment) clauses in sovereign debt contracts has long baffled commentators. We show that in the presence of asymmetric information on a sovereign borrower’s ability to pay, an uncertain clause gives rise to a collective action problem among creditors that can reduce sovereign moral hazard.
By varying the clause, parties can calibrate a sovereign’s expected default costs and payments to creditors and thereby optimally trade off the sovereign’s moral hazard and (deadweight) default costs. As information asymmetry decreases, a pari passu clause becomes a coarser instrument for configuring creditors’ incentives and mitigating moral hazard.