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Abstract

This study examines a legal experiment that occurred during the height of the global financial crisis. As markets from the United States to Europe to the Global South shook, one country – the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) – found itself on the brink of economic collapse. In particular, in 2009 the U.A.E.’s Emirate of Dubai (Emirate) was contemplating defaulting on $60 billion of debt it had amassed. Recognizing that such a default would have cataclysmic reverberations across the globe, Dubai’s governmental leaders turned to a small group of foreign lawyers, judges, accountants, and business consultants for assistance. Working in a coordinated fashion, these external and internal actors soon imported into the Emirate a new regime of insolvency laws – and even an Anglo-American insolvency court – to help resolve Dubai’s financial troubles. Drawing upon elite theory scholarship, as well as on primary and secondary sources of data, this study argues that traditional ways of analyzing foreign influences on a domestic landscape need to be refined and further nuanced to consider such important comparative cases as Dubai.

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