Odette Lienau's research and teaching interests include international economic law, international law and international relations, bankruptcy and debtor-creditor relations, and political and legal theory. Her scholarship seeks to understand the broader norms and principles that underpin international market rules and that impact expectations about appropriate behavior for businesses, governments, and other actors.
Her new book, Rethinking Sovereign Debt: Politics, Reputation, and Legitimacy in Modern Finance (Harvard University Press, 2014), challenges the conventional wisdom that all states, including those emerging from a major regime change, must repay debt or suffer reputational consequences. She contends that this practice is not essential for functioning capital markets, and locates the twentieth century consolidation of the repayment rule in contingent actions taken by government officials, international financial institutions, and private market actors. She has published articles and chapter contributions with Oxford University Press and the Yale Journal of International Law, among others, and is a consultant to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on the development of a sovereign debt workout mechanism.
Prior to joining the Cornell faculty, she practiced with the Financial Restructuring and Insolvency group at Shearman & Sterling in New York City. She received an A.B. from Harvard College and a J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was awarded the Jerome Lipper Prize for Excellence in International Law and the John Bruce Moore Award for Outstanding Work in Law and Philosophy. She earned a Ph.D. in political science at Harvard University, where her dissertation received the university's Charles Sumner Prize.