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When unique is just such a relative term

Remember how the technology boom wasn't a bubble at all, because this time things were different? Bankers love telling people how certain events are unique and unprecedented. Most of the time, though, they're wrong.

In March, for instance, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs annouced with enormous fanfare a new Mexican global bond. (Euromoney, April 2003, pp 124-128). Finally, for the first time ever, a bond issued under New York law would have collective action clauses (CACs) in its documentation, and would make it into the most important emerging-market bond index, the EMBI Global.

Mexico's achievement was undeniable, and helped it to win Euromoney's sovereign borrower of the year award a couple of months later. But some of the claims that were made for the issue turned out to be what Jeffrey Archer's wife Mary might have called "inaccurate précis".

According to a paper by Anthony Richards of the Reserve Bank of Australia, by the time Mexico issued its paper there were at least $11.9 billion of bonds issued under New York law with CACs, and quite probably more.

Far from being first, Mexico had been beaten by Bulgaria, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Qatar. And more than 20% of the issues in the EMBI Global had CACs, including six different ones from Russia as well as issues from Korea, the Philippines and Ukraine.

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