Less than a month after Argentina defaulted for the second time in 13 years, George Soros has suddenly emerged as a key rival of fellow billionaire Paul Singer in the legal fight over the nation’s debt.
According to court documents filed in London last week, Quantum Partners LP, a fund managed by Soros’s family office, has joined a group of investors suing bond trustee Bank of New York Mellon Corp. for failing to distribute 226 million euros ($298 million) of interest payments on Argentine debt. The group, which also includes Kyle Bass’s Hayman Capital Management LP, owns more than 1.3 billion of euro-denominated bonds, court documents obtained by Bloomberg News show.
At the crux of the dispute is a U.S. court ruling won by Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., which blocked Argentina from paying its overseas debt until the country compensates him and other holders of debt from its 2001 default. While the ruling prevents BNY Mellon from transferring any money deposited by Argentina until Singer is paid, it shouldn’t apply to bonds governed by jurisdictions outside of the U.S., the group says.
“The trustee isn’t acting in its official capacity as trustee,” Bass said in a telephone interview from New York. “Our interest payment is governed by U.K. law, which hasn’t ruled on this. Until there’s a similar injunction in the U.K., they owe us our interest payments.”
Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros, declined to comment. Stephen Spruiell, a spokesman for New York-based Elliott, didn’t return e-mails seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Singer, who also sued the governments of Peru and the Republic of Congo after they reneged on their obligations, bought Argentine bonds before its $95 billion default in 2001.
After a more than decade-long legal pursuit for full repayment, Singer and other creditors who refused to accept losses of 70 percent to provide Argentina debt relief are now owed $1.5 billion as of result of the U.S. court orders.
Soros, meanwhile, has been an investor in the South American country for decades, having joined a group that purchased Argentine real estate company IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones SA in the early 1990s.
On June 26, Argentina deposited $539 million into an account at BNY Mellon for an interest payment on its foreign- currency bonds due four days later -- without also depositing the amount owed to the holdout creditors led by Singer.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa called the payment “illegal” and prohibited New York-based BNY Mellon from distributing the funds to bondholders.
A default was triggered on July 30, after Argentina failed to reach a settlement with the holdouts by the end of a grace period for making the interest payments. The money remains at BNY Mellon’s account in Buenos Aires.
Argentina revoked the authorization of two BNY Mellon officials for failing to provide local financing, according to an Aug. 25 resolution. The lender had no operations in the country since December 2012, the document said.
In the U.K. lawsuit, Soros, Bass, Knighthead Capital Management LLC and RGY Investments LLC said that BNY Mellon’s London-based unit acted “consistently to protect its own interests, without reference to the interests of the beneficiaries,” according to the documents.
The bondholder group asked the London court to require BNY Mellon to disburse the money to holders of Argentina’s euro- denominated bonds and prevent the bank from doing anything else with the cash.
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