Although many of the thousands of cases investors in Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end funds have brought over the last three years have focused on UBS Financial Services Incorporated of Puerto Rico (“UBS-PR”), other brokerage firms in the Commonwealth engaged in the same wrongful sales practices. One such firm that has also been the subject of many FINRA arbitrations and other lawsuits is Santander Securities, LLC (“Santander”), a division of Banco Santander Puerto Rico.
Bloomberg reports that between the ends of 2012 and 2013, Santander marketed and sold over $280 million in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and close-end funds while getting rid of its own holdings of these same securities. In 2015, Santander settled allegations from FINRA of deficiencies in Santander’s structured product business, including those involving the sale of reverse-convertible securities to Puerto Rican retail customers when such investments were often unsuitable for them. FINRA also accused the brokerage firm of inadequate supervision of structured product sales. Santander agreed to pay customers over $7 million for their losses from reverse convertible securities.
In other Puerto Rico news, the office of the U.S. Trustee announced that it will appoint a committee of retired persons to negotiate for pensioners in the wake of the Commonwealth’s recent bankruptcy filing. The island is carrying about $50 Billion in unfunded pension liabilities, in addition to the more than $70 Billion in bond debt it still owes. At the first bankruptcy hearing for Puerto Rico, the island’s main creditors expressed interest in continuing mediation talks to figure out how to deal with these debts. Among those seeking repayment of the debts owed to them are general obligation bondholders and Cofina bondholders.