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Veteran Lawyer Says Emerging-Market Debt Is Headed for Trouble

After retiring from a 43-year law firm career, Lee Buchheit worries about the debts burdening some countries.

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For developing countries facing down creditors, Lee Buchheit was the cavalry. During his 43-year career at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, the quick-witted restructuring lawyer gained a reputation for shattering investors’ dreams of sky-high returns.

Buchheit, 68, brought arcane legal terms such as collective action clauses and asset protection orders into modern debt markets. He deployed the former to spur a settlement for Greece, enabling a supermajority of creditors to forge an agreement that was binding on all bondholders. Buchheit applied the latter in Iraq to force U.S. investors to divest from local assets.