Sovereign Debt Experts Gather for DebtCon1

January 28, 2016 — Participants braved a blizzard to attend, but when the curtain rose on the DebtCon1 conference, held at Georgetown Law January 21 to 22, the room was filled with some of the world’s foremost authorities on sovereign debt. And Twitter followers created a flurry of their own at #DebtCon1.

“We are beyond humbled by the response we got,” said Professor Anna Gelpern, introducing the two-day assemblage of roundtables, panels and addresses. “We thought we would get 20 of our nerdiest friends in the basement and that would be it. But the breadth of this gathering, especially given the weather … blows me out of the water.”

The conference featured scores of speakers representing half a dozen academic disciplines as well as practitioners from the public and private sectors.  Senior officials came from around the world — from countries like China, France and the U.K. and from organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations. 

Together, they delivered a global perspective on events ranging from Argentina’s sovereign debt to Greek debt relief and the failure of Iceland’s banks during the 2008-11 financial crisis. A roundtable chaired by Gelpern on Puerto Rico was especially timely.

In addition to Gelpern and co-organizer Duke Law Professor Mitu Gulati, the event drew such speakers as Anne Krueger of Stanford University and Johns Hopkins’s School for Advanced International Studies, Christine Desan of Harvard Law School and Brian Wynter, governor of the Central Bank of Jamaica. 

On Thursday, Wynter told participants about Jamaica — not its enviable climate, but its experience tackling a debt burden that hindered sustainable growth in the country, plus its strategies for reform and lessons learned. 

“Jamaica’s voyage out of dangerous waters is not over; we do have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But what have we learned? ... Strong institutional reform and capacity building are required. … Fiscal reforms at the heart of the program have set the stage for investors to believe that, in Jamaica, we have broken with the past.”

DebtCon1 was co-sponsored by Allen & Overy, Arnold & Porter, Cleary Gottlieb, Clifford Chance, Greylock Capital and Sullivan & Cromwell. A full list of presenters and sponsors is available here.

The inaugural event, sponsored by Georgetown Law's Institute of International Economic Law, will be held every other year. Webcasts of the two-day conference will be available here.