The ESM Treaty and PSI

There is some discussion of this issue in the comments but it’s worth putting on the front page. A much-heralded part of December’s EU negotiations was the decision to change the language on Private Sector Involvement (PSI) in the ESM Treaty.

On December 9, Herman van Rumpoy said

our first approach to PSI, which had a very negative effect on debt markets is now officially over.

It was being replaced with the following

from now on we will strictly adhere to the IMF principles and practices

Sure enough, the new ESM Treaty states

In accordance with IMF practice, in exceptional cases an adequate and proportionate form of private sector involvement shall be considered in cases where stability support is provided accompanied by conditionality in the form of a macro-economic adjustment programme.

Some are arguing that this is effectively a commitment to limit PSI to Greece. I don’t see how this is a tenable assumption. As this FT Alphaville post discusses, there is no sense in which IMF procedures rule out PSI. Furthermore, bond markets are also clearly not interpreting the new ESM treaty in this fashion since Portuguese bond yields are still effectively pricing in a default.

It’s very hard to see how, if the stars end up aligning sufficiently badly for Ireland, that “an adequate and proportionate” haircut won’t get applied to private sovereign bond holders.