Supplement | HBS Case Collection | August 2008

Iceland (B): Redefining Aaa-Rated Sovereigns

by Aldo Musacchio


In May of 2008, a team of sovereign debt analysts at Moody's had to decide whether to downgrade the country's sovereign long-term debt from Aaa to Aa1 or lower. Investor sentiment toward Iceland had changed radically in March, and the Moody's team was fearful that the situation could spiral out of control. The Moody's team knew that carry traders increased Iceland's vulnerability to a confidence crisis because they were quick to liquidate their holdings at the first sign of distress. The plunge in the Icelandic Krona since the beginning of 2008 also forced the Icelandic people to confront a decision: would joining the European Union (EU) protect Iceland from capricious swings in investor sentiment? What, if anything, should Iceland do to avoid a future crisis?

Keywords: Sovereign Finance; Financial Crisis; Borrowing and Debt; Currency; Financial Condition; Decision Choices and Conditions; Iceland; European Union;


Musacchio, Aldo. "Iceland (B): Redefining Aaa-Rated Sovereigns." Harvard Business School Supplement 709-012, August 2008.