Econometrica: Jul 2021, Volume 89, Issue 4

Reputation and Sovereign Default

https://doi.org/10.3982/ECTA16685
p. 1979-2010

Manuel Amador, Christopher Phelan

This paper presents a continuous‐time model of sovereign debt. In it, a relatively impatient sovereign government's hidden type switches back and forth between a commitment type, which cannot default, and an opportunistic type, which can, and where we assume outside lenders have particular beliefs regarding how a commitment type should borrow for any given level of debt and bond price. In any Markov equilibrium, the opportunistic type mimics the commitment type when borrowing, revealing its type only by defaulting on its debt at random times. The equilibrium features a “graduation date”: a finite amount of time since the last default, after which time reputation reaches its highest level and is unaffected by not defaulting. Before such date, not defaulting always increases the country's reputation. For countries that have recently defaulted, bond prices and the total amount of debt are increasing functions of the amount of time since the country's last default. For countries that have not recently defaulted (i.e., those that have graduated), bond prices are constant.



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