"...the quality and experience of specialist English judges..." — Simon Nixon
Los lectores de Contrapesos conocen bien una de las principales ideas que defendemos en el blog: en ausencia de una justicia imparcial, eficiente e independiente del poder ejecutivo, la oferta de crédito se contraerá—con todo lo que implica en materia de tasas de interés, salarios, seguridad, desigualdad, etc. Esta proposición tiene una versión soft y una versión hard. En la primera, la lentitud de los tribunales y la falta de jurisprudencia en materia de quiebras complican la vida de acreedores que desean hacerse de los bienes de deudores en default. En la segunda, un débil poder judicial no logra frenar las expropiaciones llevadas adelante por el ejecutivo (Argentina, Venezuela, Rusia, etc).
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Simon Nixon, especialista del Wall Street Journal en banca europea, ilustra con brillo las diferencias entre el Reino Unido y los países mediterráneos en cuanto al tratamiento legal de las quiebras (*):
The strength of its legal system in dealing with insolvencies is making the U.K. increasingly the jurisdiction of choice for European companies. The English legal system is one of the wonders of the world, admired for its fairness, efficiency and flexibility—unlike prescriptive civil law systems found elsewhere in Europe, English judge-made common law is constantly evolving and adapting to the times. The euro crisis has further strengthened the reputation of U.K. law.
Since the Greek debt write-down, when bonds issued under domestic law suffered a 70% haircut while those issued under English law were repaid in full, there has been a surge in issuance of sovereign bonds under English law. Entrepreneurs from Athens to Lisbon tell me that private equity groups typically insist that startups are incorporated in the U.K. before they will invest. But perhaps the most novel way in which the reach of English law has been extended during the crisis is the role it increasingly plays in debt restructuring.
In my Europe File column for this week’s print editions, I discussed the weakness of the euro zone’s insolvency regimes and how this was impeding good deleveraging—the restructuring of bad corporate debts that needs to take place if viable companies are to be able to start investing and growing again—and encouraging bad deleveraging when banks “amend, extend and pretend,” creating zombie companies with unsustainable debt burdens that neither grow nor die. There are three fundamental problems with insolvency regimes across much of the euro zone.
The first is that in many countries—particularly those in Southern Europe where deleveraging is most urgent—the rules are so complex and the courts so inefficient that it can take years for a lender to get their hands on their collateral. The second is that there are typically no binding legal mechanisms to impose voluntary debt restructurings on all creditors, thereby leaving deals vulnerable to holdouts. And the third is that there is no pan-European insolvency law, which means that if a cross-border company is forced into bankruptcy, its lenders must try to enforce security on their loans in multiple jurisdictions.
Luego el Sr. Nixon describe el mecanismo de Scheme of Arrangement, que en Inglaterra permite simplificar los procedimientos legales una vez que el 75% de los acreedores llegan a un acuerdo: "Schemes have proved so effective that creditors are increasingly agreeing to convert their debts from foreign to English law purely to take advantage of the process". En nuestro imaginario pseudo-progresista, favorecer al deudor en detrimento del acreedor es un principio que no se discute. El resultado está a la vista: escasez de crédito, pobreza, desigualdad.
(*) Simon Nixon: "England's Gift to Europe", The Wall Street Journal, 6 de agosto de 2014.