A top US debt restructuring expert has recommended that Cyprus convert large bank deposits into term deposits to stem the crisis and avert a run on the country's banks when they reopen.
Sovereign debt restructuring specialist Lee Buchheit, who advised Greece in its debt negotiations, said that Cyprus's controversial proposal to heavily tax depositors leaves open large risks and unfairly favors bond holders.
In a paper released Monday with Duke University sovereign debt specialist Mitu Gulati, Buchheit said that their alternative for Cyprus would respect European Union deposit guarantees and forestall a run on the banks.
They said that instead of just taxing them and then letting depositors pull out, Cyprus should forcibly convert deposits into interest-bearing, five- to 10-year certificates of deposits.
At the same time, the maturity of Cyprus sovereign bonds should be pushed out by five years, a move that would slash 6.6 billion euros ($8.5 billion) from bailout funding needs over three years.
Converting funds into term deposits "will effectively lock in that funding to the banks for many years," they said.
The alternative, allowing the deposits to be completely withdrawn when the banks reopen, "may easily require the bailout package to be reworked in a month's time."
Buchheit, a lawyer with the New York firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, has been involved in sovereign crisis restructurings in Argentina, Iceland and Iraq, as well as Greece.
The two authors in their paper criticized the EU-International Monetary Fund bailout plan released Saturday, which offered Cyprus 10 billion euros of support but required the government to raise 5.8 billion euros, largely by taxing bank deposits.
The deal sparked outrage as holders of deposits less than 100,000 euros faced an immediate tax of 6.75 percent while large depositors would be hit with a 9.9 percent levy.
Fears were Tuesday that the Cyprus parliament would reject the plan, leaving the island nation in crisis.
Buchheit and Gulati blasted the EU-IMF plan for not standing by the EU bank depositor insurance guarantee and also for leaving untouched sovereign bondholders, who in the Greek case were forced to take a major haircut.
Extending Cyprus bond maturities will require no haircut to principal or interest, they said, and still would serve to bring the required size of the eurozone member's bailout package "down to a level that will be tolerable in the eyes of northern European Parliaments."
"There are no painless or riskless options in Cyprus," they said.
"But the decisions of Friday night should stand for the proposition that some options are incandescently more painful and risky than others."