Santander Securities LLC has notified its Puerto Rico clients by letter that its San Juan branch will shutter its doors to the public on May 25. Santander Securities (SAN) is Banco Santander’s investment division. The move is part of the investment wing’s plan to move to a service-only model rather than its model that involves offering investment advice and soliciting sales. A scaled down staff will stay on at the branch after it closes.
Santander Securities in Puerto Rico has come under close scrutiny over the last five years. It is one of the investment firms that came under fire beginning in 2013 when Puerto Rico bonds and bond funds saw a steep drop in value and tens of thousands of investors sustained huge investment losses. Many of these investors should never have even purchased such volatile securities, which were always too risky for their portfolios and not in line with their investment goals. Yet Santander Securities brokers, as well as brokers from UBS Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), Banco Popular, and other investment firms, pushed them on clients, often in very high concentrations.
According to Bloomberg, between late 2012 and 2013, Santander Securities marketed and sold more than $280 million in Puerto Rico closed-end funds and municipal bonds, even as it shed its own holdings of these same securities. In 2015, the investment bank resolved allegations brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) accusing the firm of deficiencies involving its structured product business, including its handling of reverse-convertible securities sales to retail customers in Puerto Rico.