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.