Odette Lienau is a Professor of Law and a Faculty Member in the Graduate Field of Government at Cornell University. Her 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 book, Rethinking Sovereign Debt: Politics, Reputation, and Legitimacy in Modern Finance (Harvard University Press, 2014, winner of a Book Award from the American Society of International Law), 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. Her articles and chapter contributions have been published or are forthcoming with the Harvard International Law Journal, the Yale Journal of International Law, the Virginia Journal of International Law, the Hastings Law Journal, the Yale Law Journal Forum, and Oxford University Press, among others. She has served as a consultant or expert on sovereign debt issues for UNCTAD and the IMF, among other organizations, and is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
She practiced with the Financial Restructuring and Insolvency group at Shearman & Sterling in New York City prior to joining Cornell Law School and has been Nomura Visiting Professor of International Financial Systems at Harvard Law School and Martin R. Flug Visiting Professor at Yale Law School. She received an A.B. from Harvard College and a J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was awarded graduation prizes in international law and legal philosophy. She earned a Ph.D. in political science at Harvard University, where her dissertation received the university's Charles Sumner Prize.