October 19, 2015

UBS Advisory Firms To Pay Investors $13M For Failure to Disclose Closed-End Fund Strategy Modification

UBS Fund Advisor LLC and UBS Willow Management LLC will pay $17.5M, including $13 million to investors that were hurt to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of failing to disclose that there was a change in an investment strategy involving closed-end fund UBS Willow Fund LLC. The two UBS (UBS) advisory firms have advised the fund.

The SEC contends that from 2000 through 2008, UBS Willow Management — which was a joint venture between an outside portfolio manager and UBS Fund Advisor – invested the assets of the Willow Fund in line with the strategy discussed in marketing collateral and offering documents. However, according to the regulator's order that instituted a settled administrative proceeding, in 2008, the fund advisor changed tactics and went from focusing on investments in debt put out by beleaguered companies to buying big amounts of credit default swaps.

The Willow fund started to sustain huge losses because of the credit default swaps, which went from 2.6% of the fund's market value in ’08 to over 25% by March ’09. The fund was eventually liquidated three years later.

The SEC says that UBS Willow Management failed to notify its board of directors or the fund’s investors that the investment strategy had changed. For a time, a marketing brochure given to prospective investors misstated the strategy of the fund, and letters to investors included misleading or false information about credit default swap exposure.

Continue reading "UBS Advisory Firms To Pay Investors $13M For Failure to Disclose Closed-End Fund Strategy Modification" »

October 14, 2015

UBS To Pay $19.5M Over Notes Tied to Currency Index

UBS AG (UBS) has agreed to pay $19.5 million to resolve SEC charges accusing the firm of making misleading or false statements and omissions in offering materials for structured notes connected to a proprietary strategy for foreign exchange trading. The firm is accused of falsely stating to investors in the United States the structured notes linked to the V10 Currency Index with Volatility Cap were dependent upon a systematic and transparent strategy for currency trading that employed market prices to calculate the financial instruments that were underlying the index. The SEC said that UBS made undisclosed hedging trades, which lowered the index price by as much as 5%. The firm is settling without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

About 1900 US investors purchased approximately $19M of structured notes connected to the index from December ’09 to November ’10. The SEC contends UBS did not have an effective procedure, policy, or process for making sure that the individuals mainly responsible for the offering documents for the notes in the US knew that UBS employees in Switzerland were taking part in practices that could hurt the price inputs for calculating the V10 Index. The firm also purportedly did not disclose that it took unwarranted markups on hedging trades, hedged trades with non-systemic spreads, and traded prior to certain hedging transactions.

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September 30, 2015

UBS Puerto Rico to Pay $18.5M to Settle FINRA Sanctions Over Supervisory Failures Related to Closed-End Fund Sales

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is fining UBS Financial Services Incorporated of Puerto Rico (UBS PR) $7.5 million for supervisory failures involving its transactions in UBS sponsored Puerto Rican closed-end funds (CEF). The brokerage firm also must pay $11 million in client restitution for losses related to those shares.

According to FINRA, a self-regulatory organization for the brokerage industry, for over four years, UBS PR neglected to monitor the combined concentration and leverage levels in customer accounts to make sure transactions were suitable for the respective profiles and objectives of its customers. FINRA said that considering that the firm’s retail customers typically kept high concentration levels in the country’s assets and frequently used these concentrated accounts as cash loan collateral—and in light of the U.S. territory’s volatile economy—UBS should have put into place a system that could reasonably identify and prevent unsuitable transactions.

Instead, the regulator said, UBS PR persuaded certain customers to establish credit lines that were collateralized by their securities accounts. If the value of the account dropped under the required collateral level, the customer would have to deposit more assets or liquidate securities. A credit line that is collateralized by an account that is very concentrated could significantly increase an investor’s risk of loss. When the market dropped in 2013, and a lot of the CEFs lost value, customers were forced to sustain hefty losses to satisfy the calls they received notifying them that their account’s value was now under the required collateral level.

Continue reading "UBS Puerto Rico to Pay $18.5M to Settle FINRA Sanctions Over Supervisory Failures Related to Closed-End Fund Sales" »

September 1, 2015

FINRA Orders UBS to Pay Investors Over $2.9M For Puerto Rico Bond and Fund Losses

UBS (UBS) must pay over $2.9M to investors Andres Ricardo Gomez and Ana Teresa Lopez-Gonzales for losses related to their investments in Puerto Rico securities. Mr. Ricardo, Ms. Lopez-Gonzales and their relatives filed an arbitration case with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) claiming breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, breach of contract, negligence, unsuitability, misrepresentation and omission, overconcentration, and failure to supervise under FINRA rules and Puerto Rican law.

Mr. Ricardo’s and Ms. Lopez-Gonzales’ relatives resolved the securities fraud case for an undisclosed sum before the FINRA arbitration panel issued its ruling. The allegations are related to investments in Puerto Rico municipal bonds, UBS proprietary closed-end funds, and the use of Claimants’ investments as collateral to borrow money through credit lines. UBS Financial Services and UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico denied all claims.

The Claimants had initially sought $10 million in compensatory damages and other appropriate relief, the cancellation of all loan balances, disgorgement of fees and commissions earned by UBS, pre- and post-award interest, legal fees, expenses, and other fees. Claimants also sought punitive damages.

In response, UBS sought to have the Puerto Rico bond fund case dismissed. In addition, UBS requested that the FINRA panel order Mr. Ricardo and one of the other claimants pay $500,000 in damages.

Continue reading "FINRA Orders UBS to Pay Investors Over $2.9M For Puerto Rico Bond and Fund Losses" »

August 16, 2015

UBS Puerto Rico Branch Manager Had Warned that Brokers Were Pushing Improper Loan Practices

According to Reuters, internal correspondence records show that in 2012, a former branch manager at UBS Puerto Rico (UBS) warned the Swiss banking giant’s officials that its brokers were encouraging customers to get involved in improper loan practices. In a number of emails, Carlos Capacete, who was a branch manager at the time, wrote to at least two bank officers noting his suspicions of misconduct.

Reuters says that in the documents it reviewed, Capacete told regional manager Doel Garcia that he had encouraged Mariela Torres, a UBS Puerto Rico compliance director, to look into suspect loans. In another email, Capacete followed up with his inquiry to see if the loans had been investigated for possible misuse involving the bank’s credit lines.

Then, in yet another email, Capacete documented what he knew about the loans, which he believed were fraudulent, explained how he discovered the purported wrongdoing, and noted his efforts to notify Torres about the alleged misconduct. Capacete also wrote that a UBS attorney had told him that the firm had conducted an audit and found that his suspicions were wrong.

Despite this alleged audit, late last year UBS reached a $5.2 million municipal bond settlement with Puerto Rico's Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions to resolve allegations of improper loan practices. The bank settled that case without denying or admitting to the charges. It did, however, consent to enhancing its supervision of several brokers whom regulators said may have steered clients toward improperly borrowing money to purchase more funds. UBS also terminated a broker for the same allegations and received an arbitration award of $2.5 million against it in an early case concerning the same broker.

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August 11, 2015

UBS Ordered to Pay Over $2.5M to Retired Couple in Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Case

UBS Financial Services, Inc. and UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (collectively “UBS”) must pay over $2.5 million to Orlando Rodriguez Gonzales and Milagros Vila Maldonado for their investment losses related to the proprietary closed-end bond funds that they bought in Puerto Rico. The funds were sold to them by former UBS broker Jose Gabriel Ramirez, Jr., who is often referred to as “The Whopper.”

The San Juan, Puerto Rico couple, who are in their seventies, claim that they gave their liquid savings to UBS to invest. According to their complaint, the Whopper recommended they take out a $3 million loan and reinvest $2 million of that in the closed-end funds.

The result was that Gonzalez and Maldonado lost roughly $2.1 million in assets after the funds abruptly and swiftly dropped in value in 2013. Gonzalez and Maldonado filed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration claim alleging breach of fiduciary duty, unsuitable investment, fraud, and negligence related to the Puerto Rico closed-end mutual funds.

Continue reading " UBS Ordered to Pay Over $2.5M to Retired Couple in Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Case" »

July 27, 2015

UBS Warns Investors to Stay Away from Puerto Rico Bond Funds

In a complete turnaround, UBS AG (UBS) is now telling clients to step away from Puerto Rico bond funds. Reuters reports that in a recent letter, the firm’s Puerto Rico arm told clients that they would be contacted shortly regarding alternative investments.

Reasons cited for the warning is that the funds can no longer be used as loan collateral in the wake of the U.S. territory’s financial woes. Puerto Rico is currently $72 billion in debt. Concerns over its economy were not eased when Governor Alejandro García Padilla recently asked the island’s debt holders for help in postponing bond payments and restructuring the Commonwealth’s debt.

Reuters also reported that in the letter to UBS customers – issued on July 13 – UBS said the firm would lower the collateral value given to every Puerto Rico closed-end fund share to zero. However, noted the news agency, despite the declaration of zero value for the funds’ shares, the brokerage firm continues to list share prices on its website.

UBS Puerto Rico’s decision to reject the funds as collateral shows just how high risk the firm now views these investments. According to Sam Edwards, a partner in Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas, who is currently representing dozens of Puerto Rico investors, “UBS came up with the scheme to use the Closed-End Funds as collateral for loans from UBS Bank since they were not eligible for margin loans. It was that leverage against already internally leveraged losses that causes some of the worst losses on the island. UBS is now pulling the plug on its own plan and effectively admitting this was a faulty idea and not only too risky for investors, but now, too risky for UBS, who designed the plan in the first place.”

Once again, the evidence appears to support that UBS is protecting itself at the expense of its customers.

Continue reading "UBS Warns Investors to Stay Away from Puerto Rico Bond Funds" »

July 1, 2015

As Puerto Rico Asks Creditors for Concessions, S & P Downgrades the Territory’s Debt and Investors Get Ready for More Losses

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla says that the U.S. territory cannot pay back its $72 billion debt without concessions from its creditors, including U.S. mutual funds and hedge funds. According to the Governor, the Commonwealth’s efforts to restructure its debt and cut spending have failed.

Following the Governor’s announcement, credit rater Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services downgraded Puerto Rico’s credit rating from CCC-plus to CCC-minus. The rating covers the island’s entire debt, including the debt of its Employees Retirement System and the Municipal Finance Agency.

García Padilla and Puerto Rico’s government development bank also issued a report backing his statements. The executive summary was written by Anne Krueger, a former World Bank Chief Economist and the International Monetary Fund’s first deputy managing director, as well as Ranjit Teja and Andrew Wolfe, who are both economists.

In their “Krueger Report,” the economists said that they found the territory’s debt to be unsustainable. Based on the report and Puerto Rico’s own analysis, García Padilla wants to defer debts so that Puerto Rico can continue to negotiate with creditors. Some payments could be deferred for up to five years. The Governor said, “This is not politics, this is math.”

Continue reading "As Puerto Rico Asks Creditors for Concessions, S & P Downgrades the Territory’s Debt and Investors Get Ready for More Losses" »

June 15, 2015

FINRA Pursues Broker For Allegedly Trying to Bilk Elderly Investor with Alzheimer’s of $1.8M

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has filed an elder financial fraud case against broker John Waszolek, who worked for UBS Wealth Management (UBS) at the time of the allegations. According to the self-regulatory organization, in 2009, Waszkolek took advantage of an 81-year-old client when he had her appoint him as a beneficiary of her trust even though she lacked the “testamentary capacity” to make such decisions and would not have been able to protect herself from exploitation. Testamentary capacity refers to a person’s mental and legal ability to make or modify a will.

The elderly widow lived by herself and had been a client of Waszolek since 1982. However, contends FINRA, it wasn’t until 2008 as her health worsened that the broker allegedly began to go above and beyond his professional obligation to her. He was the one that purportedly took her to see the doctor, who diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s. The regulator also says that he met with an estate planning lawyer so that he could be appointed as his client’s agent and given power of attorney. He wanted her trust modified so that he would be named the residual beneficiary.

When the estate planning lawyer refused because the elderly women lacked testamentary capacity, Waszolek purportedly suggested that his client see another lawyer. The amendment made to her trust would cause some $1.3 million that was supposed to be divided among four charities to go to the broker instead. That figure would eventually go up to $1.8 million.

Continue reading "FINRA Pursues Broker For Allegedly Trying to Bilk Elderly Investor with Alzheimer’s of $1.8M" »

May 20, 2015

UBS Must Pay Investor $1M for Puerto Rico Bond Fund Portfolio

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Panel (“FINRA”) has ordered UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico and UBS Wealth Management (collectively “UBS”) to pay a client from Puerto Rico $1 million to repurchase the Puerto Rico portfolio of proprietary bond funds sold to him and many other Puerto Rico investors. According to the Panel’s decision, Mr. Burgos Rosado, a senior investor at age 66, lost $737,000 in the beleaguered closed-end funds.

He had opened his account with UBS in 2011 and invested the money he made from running a bodega for years. After Puerto Rico municipal bonds failed in 2013, the original $1.1 million he invested had fallen in value to less than $4,000. Just in September of that year, when news that the bond funds were failing en masse, Burgos Rosado reportedly approached UBS because his balance had dropped some $200,000. He was encourage to stay with his portfolio.

The FINRA panel noted that while investors typically assume their account’s risks after they’ve been given sufficient notice of the risks, the arbitrators did not think this applied in the case of Burgos Rosado, who does not speak fluent English and was clearly relying on the recommendation of his UBS advisor. Even after Burgos Rosado asked for documents in Spanish, the brokerage-firm reportedly issued his monthly statements and other information in English.

In their ruling, the FINRA arbitration panel described Burgos Rosado as a “conservative investor” who lived frugally, saving his income and profits from his business opportunities. Pointing out that his account was “over-concentrated,” the panel said that municipal the bonds were “clearly unsuitable” for an investor such as Mr. Burgos Rosado. The panelists also criticized UBS’ sales practices for the Puerto Rico closed-end funds, noting that UBS pressured its brokers to sell the funds and make sure that clients stayed invested.

The Panel ultimately ordered UBS to repurchase the closed-end funds from Mr. Burgos Rosado at full price minus roughly half of the interest Mr. Burgos Rosado received while he held the funds. In reaction to the award, UBS issued its own statement saying that it does not agree with the award for Burgos Rosado, and that it does not believe other panels will follow the decision.

However, the arbitration ruling in Burgos Rosado’s favor comes just days after another FINRA panel ordered UBS to pay a different investor $200,000 for her losses in the same group of Puerto Rico closed-end funds. In that case, UBS argued that the Claimant, Yolanda Bauza, only lost $8,000, because of investment income she received before the funds failed two years ago. The panel disagreed, awarding damages much closer to the trading losses from the bond funds.

The Puerto Rico bond fraud claims of Burgos Rosado and Bauza are just two of the hundreds of FINRA arbitration claims still pending against UBS, Banco Popular, Banco Santander (SAN), and other brokerage firms for selling the securities to investors for whom they were inappropriate and too risky. Many of these investors were retirees.

Some of these funds lost up to almost two-thirds of their value between 2011 and 2013 and now investors are trying to recoup their losses. UBS, in particular, has come under fire for its sales practices and misrepresentations and omissions concerning the risks of the bond funds and Puerto Rico debt.

Earlier this year, a recording of former UBS Puerto Rico chairman Miguel Ferrer surfaced in which he can be heard telling brokers after they expressed misgivings about the bond funds that they needed to sell more funds or risk losing their jobs. Investors were even allegedly encouraged by UBS brokers to borrow funds through lines of credit so they could invest even more money in the bond funds.

Our Puerto Rico municipal bond fraud lawyers are working for investors in the U.S. and in the Commonwealth to recoup their losses in Puerto Rico debt and other investments. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

UBS must buy back investor's Puerto Rico bond funds for $1 million, Business Insider/Reuters, May 19, 2015

UBS ordered to pay investor $1 million as Puerto Rico claims roll in, Investment News, May 20, 2015

UBS Ordered to Pay Retired Investor $200,000 For Puerto Rico Bond Fund Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 14, 2015

May 14, 2015

UBS Ordered to Pay Retired Investor $200,000 For Puerto Rico Bond Fund Losses

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) panel has ordered UBS Financial Services, Inc. and UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (collectively “UBS”) to pay an investor $200,000 for losses she sustained by investing in UBS’s Puerto Rico closed-end bond funds. This is the first known ruling from a FINRA arbitration panel in the hundreds of municipal bond fraud lawsuits filed by investors over the last few years.

The investor, Yolanda Bauza, invested money she obtained in a car accident settlement. In her Puerto Rico bond fraud case, Bauza alleged misrepresentations, securities fraud, and other wrongdoing. In addition to the $200,000 award, the arbitrators denied the firm’s request to remove information about the case from the public records of David Lugo and Carlos Gonzalez, two of the brokers who advised Bauza.

According to Sam Edwards, a partner with Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas, who is representing a number of Puerto Rico bond fund investors, “We are very pleased that FINRA’s arbitrators recognized what those of us representing the many thousands of investors in Puerto Rico and abroad have known for almost two years: UBS’s Puerto Rico bond funds were highly conflicted, very risky and completely misrepresented to investors. They were suitable for almost no investors. As a result, those who invested in these bond funds, like Ms. Bauza, should be fairly compensated.”

The slew of Puerto Rico bond cases, which come in the wake of a number of funds losing up to two-thirds of their value between 2011 and 2013, have been weighing on UBS. This is the first award. In addition to UBS’s woes with the bond funds and local Puerto Rico bonds, the territory is now contending with $73 billion in debt, which, it is estimated, Puerto Rico cannot afford to repay.

Investors, including those who should have never invested in the municipal bonds because their portfolios were never equipped to handle the risks and had no need for tax-free income, have sustained huge losses. UBS Puerto Rico brokers, in particular, have been singled out for the way they made inappropriate investment recommendations to customers, including using loans against the bond funds to buy more funds.

Specifically, some investors have complained that UBS Puerto Rico brokers, including David Lugo, convinced them to borrow money so they could invest even more cash in the bond funds. Many of these investors are retirees, like Ms. Bauza, who have lost their entire savings because they followed UBS’ advice.

In 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against UBS. It accused the firm of concealing that there was a liquidity crisis, making misleading statements to investors, and hiding control of the secondary market for nearly two dozen proprietary closed-end funds. The regulator also filed charges against ex-chief executive Miguel A. Ferrer and capital markets head Carlos J. Ortiz. Without denying or agreeing to the charges, UBS settled with the SEC for $26.6 million.

In Puerto Rico and the U.S., Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP is helping investor pursue their municipal bond fraud claims in arbitration. Please contact our Puerto Rico bond fraud attorneys today so we can help you explore your legal options. We also represent clients who purchased these municipal bonds through Banco Santander (SAN), Banco Popular, and other brokerage firms.

UBS must pay $200,000 to Puerto Rico fund investor, Reuters, May 13, 2015

More Blog Posts:
Puerto Rico’s General Obligation Rating is Downgraded to CCC+, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 28, 2015

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

Killeen Man Accused of Texas Securities Fraud Targeting Military, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 23, 2015

April 15, 2015

Former UBS Puerto Rico Executives File a $10M FINRA Arbitration Claim Against the Firm

Siblings Teresa and George Bravo, who formerly worked as financial advisors at UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), have filed a $10 million Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration claim against the firm. The Bravos, both were senior vice presidents at the broker-dealer, claim that management deceived not just customers but also employees about proprietary closed mutual funds.

The Bravos said that they thought working with UBS would help them be of better service to their clients, which is why they left their old firm. However, the allegedly fraudulent conduct taking place at UBS created material conflicts of interest for them and other employees. The Bravos are contending that during the three years they worked at UBS, they were repeatedly deceived, mistreated, threatened, and coerced before being forced out.

They collectively managed over $120 million in client assets while working for UBS. According to their complaint, the Bravos said that UBS created a high-pressure atmosphere to get brokers to find and sell more of UBS’s proprietary closed-end mutual funds or risk termination otherwise. Teresa Bravo says that she was even duped into buying $100,000 in mutual funds herself. She and her brother are accusing UBS of deceiving customers for its own protection and trying to artificially preserve the Puerto Rican closed-end funds market.

It was in 2012 that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission submitted charges against UBS for allegedly making misleading statements to investors and downplaying that there was a liquidity crisis. UBS Puerto Rico settled the claims for $26 million. UBS executives Carlos J. Ortiz and Miguel A. Ferrer were cleared of the charges during a later hearing with an SEC administrative judge. Since that decision from the SEC, Ferrer made headlines concerning UBS’s closed-end funds when a recording of his voice was released. On it he can be heard pressuring UBS brokers to sell the Puerto Rican closed-end funds despite their list of concerns about the investments.

The Bravos say UBS’s behavior has hurt their business and earning potential. They believe that the firm should be liable for their loss of business and reputation, as well as for UBS’s actions stemming from fraudulent misrepresentation, fraud, negligence, breach of duty to inform an agent, negligent misrepresentation and other claims. Specifically, the Bravos have asked for $10 million in compensatory damages. They would like UBS to pay them punitive damages, too.

Puerto Municipal Bond Fraud Cases

For the past two years, our Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers have been working with clients to file claims against UBS Puerto Rico, Banco Santander (SAN), Banco Popular, and other brokerage firms because of losses in these same closed-end funds or in similar investments. Many investors should not have been involved with these investments, which were not suitable for their portfolios, risk tolerance levels, or investment goals in the first place.

Please contact our Puerto Rico bond fraud law firm today. We represent investors from the U.S. mainland and the Commonwealth.

More Blog Posts:
Puerto Rico’s Debt Gets Downgraded to "B" by Fitch Ratings, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 28, 2015

Doral Bank In Puerto Rico Fails, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 5, 2015

February 17, 2015

DOJ Investigating UBS Over Losses Related To Firm’s V10 Enhanced FX Carry Strategy

UBS Group AG (UBS) is under scrutiny over losses related to its V10 Enhanced FX Carry Strategy. The complex financial product was sold to fund managers, businesses, and individual investors and touted as a high-yielding foreign-exchange investment that employed computer algorithms to reduce risks during volatile times.

Unfortunately, according to Bloomberg, in 2010 during the start of the debt crisis, the index to which the notes were tied lost 26% over two years. Now, sources tell Bloomberg, the U.S. Department of Justice is looking at whether traders shortchanged investors by charging them too much for executing the currency trades for the strategy.

The V10 Enhanced FX Carry Strategy created sales commissions while offering an opportunity to profit from these sales and purchases of underlying currencies. Investors bought notes tied to the V10 index, which is calculated by ranking currencies from the Group of 10 nations daily according to one-month interest rates. UBS would then bet on the three highest-yielding currencies advancing and the three lowest declining. During a rise in volatility over a predetermined level, positions would be switched. Now, investigators with the DOJ are looking at instant messages, talking to traders, and examining documents issued to customers to figure out whether UBS represented how much profit it was taking on the trades.

One investor, Walter Michaelson, claims that UBS sold him the complex financial product that he never requested nor were ever properly explained to him. He said that he and UBS agreed that he would place a $1 million home-equity loan with another bank but that the paperwork was modified after he signed so that he got a business loan instead of a personal loan. This allowed UBS to take collateral assets the equivalent of five times more than his home’s value. He was required to pay back the loan by August 2010.

According to Michaelson’s complaint, the bank’s employees said the V10 notes would garner him yearly returns of 7-15% while keeping his capital preserved. When UBS contacted him to request that he invest more in V10, he found that his investment had gone up $70K. Michaelson decided to close his position and take the funds. That was when he discovered that he had lost $127,000.

Michaelson said that because of UBS-related dealings, including those involving V10, he lost $350K. Meantime, the bank says it will mount a vigorous defense against his claims. Also under scrutiny by the DOJ for a purportedly similar strategy is Barclays (BARC)

In November, UBS, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), HSBC Holdings (HSBC), Royal Bank of Scotland Plc (RBS), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), and Citigroup (C) settled with regulators for $4.43 billion for failing to stop traders from attempting to manipulate the foreign exchange market.

UBS Client Claims Losses on Currency Product Probed by US, Bloomberg, February 16, 2015

Regulators fine global banks $4.3 billion in currency investigation, Reuters, November 12, 2014

More Blog Posts:
Jury Says Ex-Envoy Involved in Stanford Ponzi Scam Must Pay $750K, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 16, 2015

EU Fines ICAP $17M for Helping Traders Manipulate Yen Libor, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 17, 2015

UBS Under Scrutiny in New Tax Evasion Probe, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 4, 2015

February 7, 2015

UBS Financial Puerto Rico’s Chairman Told Brokers to Sell More Bond Funds in 2011

Reuters is reporting that in 2011, before the prices of UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico’s (UBS) proprietary bond funds dropped, the firm’s chairman, Miguel Ferrer, told brokers to either start selling more UBS Puerto Rico bond funds or find a new job. He spoke after the brokerage firm’s representatives began to express reservations about selling the bond funds to their customers because of, among other issues, the high risks that were involved.

According to Reuters, sources in the know said that when UBS asked their brokers about their reluctance to sell the funds, they gave Mr. Ferrer and UBS nearly two dozen reasons, including concerns with low liquidity, excessive leverage, instability, oversupply, and because of the concentration of Puerto Rican government debt, which UBS had underwritten.

UBS has come under fire not just for pushing its own funds to clients for whom they were not appropriate, but also for improperly directing some of them to borrow money from another UBS unit to purchase more fund shares. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission, are reportedly looking into the allegations.

Since the fall of 2013, a number of the funds have lost half to almost two-thirds of their value. Hundreds of investors have come forward to file Puerto Rico municipal bond fraud claims against UBS Puerto Rico, seeking to get their money back.

Ferrer’s comments pushing the funds was recorded and you can hear some of what he said by clicking on the link from Reuters below. The audio of Ferrer speaking could benefit investors with securities arbitration claims. Those investors are reportedly already seeking over $900M in damages.

When asked to confirm the recording’s authenticity, UBS would not. Ferrer, however, said he would provide a translation through his attorneys (seemingly confirming it is him on the tapes) and that he reminded the financial advisers during and after the meeting that it was their responsibility to recommend only the financial instruments that were suitable for each customer.

Claimants say that UBS Puerto Rico marketed the Puerto Rico bond funds as providing tax benefits and garnering high yields but failed to notify investors about the significant risks. Investors are also accusing the firm of placing its financial interests first by guiding customers to funds with UBS-underwritten bonds. Many of these investors were retirees.

Meantime, the firm maintains that it thought the funds were solid investments that would benefit investors. However, that has not proven to be the case for many. For example, Mabel Ladicani, 88, and her daughter are among the claimants. The two of them said that without their request, UBS moved their money into debt funds that were higher risk than where they were previously invested. Shortly after the move, these risky investments financially devastated Mrs. Ladicani and her daughter.

In Puerto Rico and the United States, the law firm of Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas is representing investors in Puerto Rico bond and bond fund cases with claims against UBS Puerto Rico and other financial firms that inappropriately sold the products to customers. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today for a free, no obligation consultation.

Recording shows how UBS drove reluctant brokers to sell high-risk Puerto Rico funds, Reuters, February 6, 2015

An Audio of Ferrer's Recording, mp4/Reuters

More Blog Posts:
Beneficiaries of Puerto Rico Trust File Securities Fraud Lawsuit Seeking Over $4.5M From UBS Financial Services, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 5, 2015

UBS Settles SEC Dark Pool Case for $14M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 16, 2015

UBS Under Scrutiny in New Tax Evasion Probe, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 4, 2015

January 16, 2015

UBS Settles SEC Dark Pool Case for $14M

A UBS AG (UBS) subsidiary has consented to pay $14.4 million to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission claims that the firm committed violations involving the marketing and operation of its dark pool. The subsidiary, UBS Securities LLC, is accused of placing some players at an advantage in its alternative trading system the UBS ATS, which is the second largest dark pool in the United States.

According to the regulator, the Swiss bank failed to adequately disclose the way the dark pool worked to all of its clients, which allowed only some investors to know all of its rules. The SEC said that beginning in 2008 and into 2012, UBS let customers turn in orders at prices with denominations under a penny even though market rules dictate that all orders cannot be in any denomination below one cent.

UBS pitched the PrimaryPegPlus (PPP) order type, which let traders sell and purchase securities at the under the one cent increment prices, primarily to market makers and high-frequency trading firms. This let them get in front of orders that were made at the legal, whole-penny prices.

The SEC also said that UBS did not tell all subscribers about the “natural-only crossing restriction,” which was supposed to ensure that certain orders would not execute against orders made by the high-frequency trading firms and market makers. The shield only benefitted orders made using UBS algorithms, which are automated trading strategies. It wasn't until 2 1/2 years after this feature's launch that every subscriber was notified of its existence.

The SEC is accusing UBS of other violations, including the submission of incomplete and inconsistent statements about sub-penny orders and its natural-only crossing restriction in Form ATSs. The firm also purportedly did not set up written standards for giving subscribers access to the natural-only crossing restriction.

The Commission says that from August 2008 to March 2009, and for a certain period in 2010, UBS failed to preserve certain order data for the UBS ATS. It is accused of violating confidentiality requirements when it gave employees that shouldn't have had access the private trading data of subscribers.

By settling, UBS is not denying or admitting to the SEC findings. Of the $14.4 million payment, $12 million is a penalty.

According to Bloomberg, a source said that the SEC is working on rules that will compel dark pools to follow some of the same requirements as exchanges. This would include requirements dealing with disclosure of order types available in the dark pools, as well as pricing data sources.

The regulator is reportedly considering whether to make dark pool operators tell investors who else is trading as opposed to keeping trader identities anonymous. Some critics have expressed concerns that dark pools give computerized trading firms the upper hand. Also, because certain dark pools use aggregated feeds to match traders, critics are worried that investors are getting dated data when considering whether to trade.

SEC Order (PDF)

More Blog Posts:
NY Sues Barclays Over Alleged High Speed Trading Favors in Dark Pool, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 26, 2014

Deutsche Bank, UBS Are Probed Over Dark Pools & High-Frequency Trading, While An Investor Sue Barclays, Institutional Investor Fraud Blog, July 30, 2014

SEC Working on Mutual Fund Regulations, Conducts Dark Pool Probes, Enacts New Exchange Rules, Institutional Investor Fraud Blog, November 20, 2014

January 5, 2015

Beneficiaries of Puerto Rico Trust File Securities Fraud Lawsuit Seeking Over $4.5M From UBS Financial Services

Plaintiffs in Puerto Rico who say they are the beneficiaries of a trust have filed a securities lawsuit against UBS Financial Services (UBS). The beneficiaries’ complaint asserts that UBS in Puerto Rico breached its duty to properly manage funds linked to UBS’s proprietary closed-end Puerto Rico bond funds.

The beneficiaries of Nellie Sánchez Carmona's estate claim that the brokerage firm acted against their best interests when it opted to keep the trust invested in the proprietary funds—a move that earned UBS underwriting and management fees, along with commissions, and interest. The beneficiaries contend that UBS and its subsidiaries purposely prevented Sánchez Carmona from collecting benefits she was owed so that the firm could keep investing her money in the closed-end funds, which were issued by the firm, and continue to collect fees.

Also, according to the plaintiffs, for 10 years UBS prevented Sánchez Carmona from finding out that she was a beneficiary of the trust, which was set up by her husband Robert Hargen. Even though he passed away several years ago, UBS, in federal filings up to at least 2010, represented that Hargen was still alive and in possession of the trust.

During this time, plaintiffs say, UBS reinvested about $664,000 of what the trust made, placing the money in the closed-end funds and making a profit on the initial principal rather than paying out the earnings to take care of Sánchez Carmona’s medical bills, which the trust was supposed to cover. UBS also is accused of making it appear as if Hargen was a Puerto Rico resident even though he had been living in Florida since 2001. UBS allegedly did this to comply with regulations, which stipulate that investors of proprietary Puerto Rican closed-end bond have to be residents of the U.S. Commonwealth (or liquidate their holdings upon changing residencies). The plaintiffs want UBS to pay them about $3.5 million in damages and $1 million for lost income and fees.

In the last year and a half, hundreds of claimants have come forward filing claims against UBS over its Puerto Rico bond funds, which quickly lost value in August 2013 as the territory's debt imploded after years of warnings to UBS and other market participants that the Commonwealth might not be able to meet its excessive debt obligations. Many of the investors on the island contend that the bond funds were recommended to them even though they were not suitable for their goals and came with risks beyond what their portfolios could handle.

UBS is already facing around $1 billion in Puerto Rico muni bond fraud claims from investors on the island and in the mainland.

UBS Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Attorneys
Our UBS Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers have been working hard to help investors get their money back. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today. Your initial case consultation with us is free.

Puerto Rico investors sue UBS for $4.5 million, InvestmentNews, December 31, 2014

More Blog Posts:
UBS To Nominate Executive from BlueMountain Hedge Fund That Challenged Puerto Rico Law on Debt Restructuring to Its Board, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 17, 2014

Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 18, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

December 17, 2014

UBS To Nominate Executive from BlueMountain Hedge Fund That Challenged Puerto Rico Law on Debt Restructuring to Its Board

UBS, AG (UBS) says that it intends to nominate BlueMountain Capital Management Executive Jes Staley to its board in May. Staley formerly served as a JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) executive.

In a statement, UBS Chairman Axel Weber said that Staley is perfect for the role due to his professional expertise from working in global banking leadership roles for three decades. However, that may not be the only reason.

Earlier this year, BlueMountain, which is a New York-based hedge fund, joined a legal challenge against a law that would let some of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's agencies restructure their massive debt. UBS Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) is one of the banks accused of inappropriately placing clients’ money into closed-end funds that had high exposure to Puerto Rico municipal bonds.

When the bonds fell significantly in value last year, many investors sustained huge losses. Since then, UBS has been subject to hundreds of bond fraud arbitration cases by investors seeking to get their money back. Many claimants are alleging that the firm marketed Puerto Rico bonds to them even though the investments were unsuitable.

Following a recent meeting between officials of Puerto Rico’s power utility and investors, the prices on the territory’s bonds hit a record low. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is seeking to restructure $8.6 billion of debt. Under an agreement with creditors to pay back bank loans, PREPA has to submit a five-year strategic plan. The utility company recently presented an unfinished business plan. PREPA has told investors that they want more time to restructure.

On Tuesday, Puerto Rico general obligations set to mature in 2035 traded at around 84 cents on the dollar, which is the lowest it has traded since their original sale in March.

Puerto Rico Bond Fraud
In addition to representing investors who purchased securities from UBS, our Puerto Rico municipal bond fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD LLP represent customers that bought securities from Merrill Lynch (MER), Banco Popular, and Banco Santander (SAN). Our investigation has uncovered many investors who lost much of their savings in Puerto Rican debt, with some of them seeing their life savings completely wiped out.

Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP represents investors in both the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. Please contact our muni bond fraud lawyers today and ask for you free case consultation.

Puerto Rico Debt Sets Record Low After Utility Meets Investors
, Bloomberg, December 16, 2014

UBS Nominates BlueMountain Executive Jes Staley to Board
, The Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2014

More Blog Posts:
Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 18, 2014

Investors File Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 9, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

November 18, 2014

Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed

Puerto Rico’s Electrical Power Authority, also known as PREPA, is experiencing a surge in overdue accounts. According to a report from an FTI Consulting subsidiary, since 2012, the U.S. territory’s electrical authority has seen a 219% increase in the number of company and residential accounts that are at least 120 days late in making their payments. The report was generated as part of an agreement with the creditors, which retain more than $9 billion of the electrical utility company’s debt.

By September 2014, late balances owed to PREPA not just among businesses and residents, but also by government entities had hit $1.75 billion. At least $708.6 million were payments that were late by a minimum of four months.

Puerto Rico’s governmental entities owe about $758 million, with certain public corporations unable to even pay their electricity bills and refusing to agree to payment plans to get their accounts current. The FTI report recommends that Prepa put into place an amnesty period for clients that are delinquent, retain a collection agency, increase late fees and charges for reconnection, and push for timely payments.

Prepa is getting ready to unveil a plan early next year to restructure its $8.6 billion of debt. Its debt has been issued a junk rating by credit rating agencies.

Meantime, Puerto Rico is talking to four bond insurers to get at least part of up to $2.9 billion in bonds insured. These are bonds the financially beleaguered Commonwealth wants to put out later this year. The bond issues would let the territory access a deeper capital pool in the municipal bond market than the small hedge funds that purchased $3.5 billion of its debt earlier this year.

Puerto Rico is also seeking to refinance a $2.2 billion loan that the Government Development Bank made to its Highways and Transportation Authority to try and improve its poor financial health and give the territory more time to reverse its failing economy. To make the sale, the island has to pass laws that would increase an oil tax that could allow it to back the bonds.

Puerto Rico Bond Fraud
Puerto Rico’s muni bonds are the focus of hundreds of FINRA arbitration claims, with many investors complaining that they sustained huge losses because they were sold investments that were too risky for what they could afford.

Brokers for UBS (UBS), Banco Santander (BNC), and Banco Popular are among those identified as having made inappropriate recommendations to customers. A number of investors lost everything.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD LLP, our Puerto Rico muni bond fraud lawyers represent investors with FINRA arbitration claims that are seeking to recover their money. Contact our securities fraud law firm today to request your free case consultation.

Puerto Rico Electric Utility’s Late Accounts Surge 219% From ’12, Bloomberg, November 17, 2014

Read the FTI Capital Advisors Report

Puerto Rico's PREPA urged to get tough on $1.8 bln owed, Reuters, November 17, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Investors File Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 9, 2014

Fidelity, Schwab, and Pershing Suspend Trading of Schorsch Nontraded Real Estate Investment Trusts, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 13, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

November 3, 2014

SEC Sanctions UBS, Charles Swab, Oppenheimer, & 10 Other Firms For Improper Sales of Puerto Rico Junk Bonds

The Securities and Exchange Commission has sanctioned thirteen financial firms, including UBS Financial Services (UBS), Charles Schwab and Co. (SCHW), J.P. Morgan Securities (JPM), and Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF), for the improper sales of Puerto Rican junk bonds. A $100,00 minimum denomination had been established in junk bonds of $3.5 billion made by Puerto Rico several months ago. An SEC probe, however, revealed that there had been 66 instances when firms sold the bonds in transactions of under $100,000.

Municipal bond offerings are supposed to have a set minimum denomination that determines the smallest amount that a firm can sell to an investor during a single transaction. Typically, municipal issuers will establish high minimum denominations for junk bonds with a greater default risk. This is done to limit the bonds from ending up in the accounts of investors who may not be able to handle the risks.

The firms and their fines: UBS Financial Services for $56,400, Charles Schwab & Co. for $61,800, Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) for $61,200, Wedbush Securities Inc. for $67,200, Hapoalim Securities USA for $54,000, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) for $100,800, Interactive Brokers LLC for $56,000, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF) for $60,000, Investment Professionals Inc. for $67,800, Riedl First Securities Co. of Kansas for $130,000, J.P. Morgan Securities for $54,000, National Securities Corporation for $60,000, and Lebenthal & Co. for $54,000.

The firms are accused of violating Rule G-15 of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. The rule sets the minimum denomination requirement. The SEC says that by conducting sales under the minimum denomination, the firms violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934’s Section 15B(c)(1), which does not allow for any MSRB rule to be violated.

All 13 firms agreed to settle the SEC’s findings without admitting to or denying them. The firms also agreed to be censured. They will review their respective procedures and policies, as well as make the needed changes to ensure appropriate compliance moving forward.

Our Puerto Rico muni bond fraud lawyers represent investors in the Commonwealth and on the mainland. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

SEC Sanctions 13 Firms for Improper Sales of Puerto Rico Junk Bonds, SEC, November 13, 2014

Rule G-15, Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board

Securities Exchange Act of 1934
, Legal Information Institute

More Blog Posts:
Investors Have Filed Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 29, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

UBS Brokers Are Still Selling Puerto Rico Muni Bonds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 20, 2014

October 29, 2014

Investors File Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS

In its third-quarter earnings reports this week, UBS noted that claims involving its Puerto Rico closed-end municipal bond funds are reaching close to $1 billion. That is a significant jump from the $600M mark those cases reached during the second quarter of this year, and this shows that the number of cases being filed against UBS continue to grow. According to multiple reports, the investors seeking almost $1 billion in losses are alleging unsuitability, fraud, and misrepresentation.

The third quarter has been a rough one for the Swiss banking giant. Reuters reports that the entity has put aside $1.9 billion for possible legal costs.

In the past year, UBS has been in the spotlight over claims that brokers in UBS's Puerto Rico unit persuaded customers to get involved in the proprietary bond funds even if the funds were not suitable for the investors’ portfolios. Some clients reportedly were even encouraged to borrow so they could invest more.

When the muni bond funds dropped in price last year, many investors sustained huge losses. Additionally, many investors have claimed the funds and the bonds associated with the funds were misrepresented to investors on the island.

In addition to investors,regulators have expressed concern over UBS’s sale of Puerto Rico Bonds and Puerto Rico Bond funds. UBS recently agreed to pay Puerto Rico regulators $5.2 million for bond improprieties. That amount included $1.7 million in restitution to senior investors with low-net-worth who lost money in closed-end funds. However, despite the losses and regulatory scrutiny, UBS said that it intends to keep selling Puerto Rico municipal bonds.

Currently, Puerto Rico is still mired in $73 billion of debt. According to Bloomberg, the island’s lawmakers are developing a plan that would let the Infrastructure Financing Authority, known as PRIFA, sell up to $2.9 billion of bonds backing petroleum taxes to pay back the loans from the Government Development Bank. This would raise the U.S. territory’s petroleum-tax rate to $15.50 a barrel. Earlier this month, Puerto Rico paid $1.2 billion in a short-term financing deal. The notes that were sold come with a general obligation guarantee.

Traditional muni investors have started staying away from Puerto Rico, as have traditional muni funds. In the last six weeks, the Commonwealth’s junk-rated bunds have slumped, with the S&P Municipal Bond Puerto Rico Index dropping 3.25%. The territory recently borrowed $900 million from big banks, including Bank of America (BAC), J.P. Morgan (JPM), and Morgan Stanley (MS). Puerto Rico agreed to almost an 8% interest rate to borrow through the middle of next year, which is a very high rate for such short-term borrowing.

According to TheHill.com, with investor confidence in Puerto Rico declining and the island’s other financial woes, the U.S. Congress may feel compelled to set up a federal oversight board to manage the territory’s fiscal problems. However, the U.S. government previously indicated it would not bail out Puerto Rico or guarantee its debt to save it from a financial crisis.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, our Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers are representing customers of UBS, Banco Santander (BNC), Banco Popular, and other brokerage firms that sustained losses caused by broker negligence and other misconduct, including the sale of Puerto Rico bonds and bond funds. Please contact our securities fraud law firm today for a free, no obligation consultation about your legal rights.

UBS facing nearly $1 billion in Puerto Rico claims, Investment News, October 28, 2014

Puerto Rico pays heavy price in $1.2 bln note sale, Reuters, October 10, 2015

Puerto Rico Sells $900 Million of Short-Term Notes, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014

Puerto Rico May Raise Petroleum Tax to Back $2.9 Billion of Debt, Bloomberg, October 29, 2014

More Blog Posts:
UBS is Fined $3.6M, Plus Must Pay $1.7M in Restitution Over Puerto Rico Closed-End Mutual Fund Sales, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 14, 2014

UBS Brokers Are Still Selling Puerto Rico Muni Bonds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 20, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013