UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS) has agreed to pay $26.6 million to settle the Securities and Exchange Commission administrative action accusing the financial firm of misleading investors about its control and liquidity over the secondary market for nearly two dozen proprietary closed-end mutual funds. By settling, UBS Puerto Rico is not denying or admitting to the allegations.
Per the SEC, not only did UBS Puerto Rico fail to disclose to clients that it was in control of the secondary market, but also when investor demand became less in 2008, the financial firm bought millions of dollars of the fund shares from shareholders that were exiting to make it appear as if the funds’ market was stable and liquid. The Commission also contends that when UBS Puerto Rico’s parent firm told it to lower the risks by reducing its closed-end fund inventory, the Latin America-based financial firm carried through with a strategy to liquidate its inventory at prices that undercut a number of customer sell orders that were pending. As a result, closed-end fund clients were allegedly denied the liquidity information and price that they are entitled to under the law. UBS Puerto Rico must now pay a $14 million penalty, $11.5 million in disgorgement, and $1.1 million in prejudgment interest.
The SEC has also filed an administrative action against Miguel A. Ferrer, the company’s ex-CEO and vice chairman, and Carlos Ortiz, the firm’s capital markets head. Ferrer allegedly made misrepresentations, did not disclose certain facts about the closed-end funds, and falsely represented the funds’ market price and trading premiums. The Commission is accusing Ortiz of falsely representing the basis of the fund share prices.
In other stockbroker fraud news, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has denied Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc.’s bid to vacate the over $40,000 arbitration award it has been ordered to pay over the way it marketed its RMK Advantage Income Fund (RMA). Judge Richard Matsch instead granted the investors’ motion to have the award confirmed, noting that there were “many factual allegations” in the statement of claim supporting the contention that the firm was liable.
Per the court, Morgan Keegan had argued that the arbitration panel wasn’t authorized to issue a ruling on the claimants’ bid for damages related to the marketing of the fund, which they had invested in through Fidelity Investment. Morgan Keegan contended that seeing as it had no business relationship with the claimants, it couldn’t be held liable for their losses, and therefore, the FINRA arbitration panel had disregarded applicable law and went outside its authority. The district court, however, disagreed with the financial firm.
In other stockbroker fraud news, the SEC has reached a settlement with a Florida attorney accused of being involved in a financial scam run by a viaticals company that defrauded investors of over $1 billion. The securities action, which restrains Michael McNerney from future securities violations, is SEC v. McNerney. He is the ex-outside counsel for now defunct Mutual Benefits Corp.
The MBC sales agent and the company’s marketing materials allegedly falsely claimed that viatical settlements were “secure” and “safe” investments as part of the strategy to get clients to invest. The viaticals company also is accused of improperly obtaining polices that couldn’t be sold or bought, improperly managing escrow premium funds in a Ponzi scam, and pressuring doctors to approve bogus false life expectancy figures.
McNerney, who was sentenced to time in prison for conspiracy to commit securities fraud, must pay $826 million in restitution (jointly and severally with other defendants convicted over the MBC offering fraud).
UBS Puerto Rico unit to pay $26.6 mln in SEC pact, Reuters, May 1, 2012
Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. v. Pessel (PDF)
SEC Files Charges Against Former Attorney for Mutual Benefits, SEC, April 30, 2012
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Institutional Investor Fraud Roundup: SEC Seeks Approval of Settlement with Ex-Bear Stearns Portfolio Managers, Credits Ex-AXA Rosenberg Executive for Help in Quantitative Investment Case; IOSCO Gets Ready for Global Hedge Fund Survey, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 29, 2012 Continue reading