Yehuda Adar, ‘The Damages Puzzle in Government Bonds’

What are the damages to which an investor facing a repudiation or a material breach by a government issuer is entitled? The conventional answer that most investors would probably give is that, in the face of such a default on the bond indenture, damages should include both the repayment of the principal (‘par’) and the payment of any remaining (ie, unpaid) coupons (discounted to present value). Is this conventional understanding warranted? For at least some sovereign bond experts, the answer is not at all obvious and straightforward at it might seem at first blush. Aren’t such damages over-compensatory? Indeed, by obtaining – prior to maturity – both the par and every remaining coupon payment, isn’t the bondholder being put in a better position than if the contract had been performed? Indeed, if there had been no breach, wouldn’t the bondholder have to wait for those payments to be made until maturity date? Secondly, if damages are to be calculated this way, isn’t the bondholder going to receive something more valuable than what he had before the breach? More concretely, whereas prior to breach the bond’s market value reflected the issuer’s credit ranking, the conventional measure of damages seems to treat the bondholder as if he owned a US treasury bond. Third, shouldn’t the investor be expected to purchase a substitute on either the primary or secondary market to eliminate or at least minimize his damages? Shouldn’t this option significantly reduce the scope of the issuer’s liability?

As basic as these questions sound, they have managed to escape rigorous analysis in the sovereign bonds literature. One can hardly find a comprehensive analysis of remedial issues within this vast body of scholarship …

Adar, Yehuda, The Damages Puzzle in Government Bonds (November 8, 2021), forthcoming in the Capital Markets Law Journal (Oxford Academic, 2022).

First posted 2021-11-11 15:00:42

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