By Andrew Longstreth
NEW YORK, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The fight coming to a head in
U.S. courts over Argentine government debt has attracted some of
the biggest names in the U.S. legal business.
The latest big gun to enter the fray is celebrated attorney
David Boies, whose appearance is the latest sign of escalating
stakes in the case. Boies, a partner at Boies, Schiller &
Flexner, represents holders of Argentine bonds who agreed to two
rounds of restructurings in which Argentina issued new debt at a
His appearance also sets up a potential rematch between
Boies and another top-flight attorney, Theodore Olson, who is
representing an opposing group of investors. Olson represented
former President George W. Bush at the Supreme Court in a case
that decided the U.S. presidential election in 2000. Boies
represented Democratic candidate Al Gore, who lost the election.
Olson, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and a former
solicitor general under Bush, represents investors who refused
to participate in the restructurings, the so-called holdout
Last week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa issued a ruling
in favor of the holdouts, ordering Argentina to pay $1.3 billion
into an escrow account for them by Dec. 15. He also ordered
Argentina not to pay bondholders who agreed to the haircut until
it pays the holdouts.
Boies appealed the order on Monday night, saying it amounted
to an unconstitutional taking of his clients' property. If the
decision is not overruled, Boies said it could trigger a default
by Argentina and prevent payment to his clients.
"Telling a sovereign country what it does in its own nation
raises a lot of issues that I think in the long run are not
productive for the United States remaining a commercial
financial center," Boies told Reuters on Tuesday.
Olson did not respond to requests for comment.
Argentina, represented by Jonathan Blackman and Carmine
Boccuzzi of the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, also
appealed Griesa's order on Monday. Blackman and Boccuzzi are
among the foremost experts on the U.S. Foreign Sovereign
Immunities Act, one of the laws at issue in the Argentina case.
If the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agrees to hear the case,
oral argument could feature Boies and Argentina's lawyers on one
side and Olson on the other.
Most big-name partners at prestigious law firms bill nearly
$1,000 an hour. But Olson is even more expensive. According to
court filings made this year, Olson's hourly rate is $1,800.
Boies's firm, meanwhile, is known for making fee arrangements
with clients such as charging a "success fee."
Boies is just the latest lawyer to join the litigation,
which has spawned dozens of cases and has featured lawyers from
dozens of law firms.
The biggest role in the nearly 10-year-old battle has been
played by lawyers from Cleary Gottlieb, which has long
specialized in representing sovereign nations in financial
crises. In addition to Argentina, Cleary has represented Greece,
the Republic of Congo, Iceland and Iraq.
The holdout bondholders, which include NML Capital, an
affiliate of Elliott Management, and Aurelius Capital
Management, have called on a variety of firms in addition to
Olson's Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. These firms include Simpson
Thacher & Bartlett as well as Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Bondholders have also used the firm Dechert.
Since facing off in the case known as Bush v. Gore, Boies
and Olson have made headlines for working together on behalf of
gay and lesbian couples challenging the constitutionality of
California's ban on same sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court
will meet on Friday to consider whether to take that case.
Boies joked about appearing in so many cases either opposite
or alongside Olson. "We're trying to work it out so that either
every client hires both of us or each client hires one of us on
one side and one on the other side," he said.
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