Tuesday, December 22, 2015

bond market boondoggle this way comes...,


NYTimes |  The fight over the island’s future is stretching from the oceanside neighborhoods of San Juan, where a growing number of wealthy investors and financial professionals have migrated in recent years to exploit generous tax breaks, to Capitol Hill. Their efforts are being closely watched by financial institutions, labor unions and policy makers on the mainland, where many ordinary investors own Puerto Rican bonds through mutual funds.

Some warn that Puerto Rico could be a test case for the rest of the country, paving the way for troubled states like Illinois to escape unsustainable debts.

Stephen J. Spencer, a restructuring expert representing Puerto Rico bondholders including some hedge funds, said letting the government renege on agreements with hedge funds and other investors would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the integrity of the bond market.

“It’s really a wealth transfer from the bondholders to the municipalities,” Mr. Spencer said.

Others fear a different precedent: A handful of wealthy investors, they argue, are trying to rewrite the social contract of an entire United States territory. Puerto Rican officials say they have already cut public services and slashed central government spending by a fifth to keep ahead of payments to the hedge funds and financiers.

“What they are doing, by getting all the resources for themselves, is undermining the viability of Puerto Rico as a commonwealth,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “They want their money now, and they want to get the rules set so that they can make money for the next 20 years.”