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A united stand for retail bond investors

The thousands of retail investors in Europe holding Argentine debt would be virtually powerless as individuals in negotiations on restructuring. Pooled, though, their holdings could command a veto. Enter Angel Gurria and Adam Lerrick who, for a fee, hope to arrange this.

EMERGING-MARKET FINANCE has more than its fair share of polarizing personalities. Some people, such as former Mexican finance minister Angel Gurria, are universally admired. Others, including Carnegie Mellon economics professor and former CSFB banker Adam Lerrick, are seen as highly divisive.

So eyebrows were raised last month when Lerrick and Gurria announced that they had gone into business together, setting up a for-profit negotiating team designed to represent European holders of defaulted Argentine debt.

The two are not natural bedfellows: Gurria admits that "when we first met to discuss these problems, we were looking at them from relatively different points of view". Lerrick is famous as a right-winger who believes that the public sector should drastically reduce its role in emerging markets; he was the prime mover of the Meltzer Commission report, which advocated sweeping changes at the IMF. Gurria, on the other hand, has had a very close relationship with the highest levels of the official sector for more than 20 years.

Both, however, are convinced that one of the foremost challenges facing the asset class today is the restructuring of Argentina's foreign debt.

"Argentina's exports have not risen in volume terms because they have no access to trade credit," says Lerrick.

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