In a recent award, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel has decided that Merrill Lynch must pay a former professional baseball player and his wife $1.7 million in compensatory damages, plus $88,758 in costs, for losses they sustained from investing in Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end bond funds. The retired MLB player is Angel Pagan and his wife is Windy Pagan, a former Ms. Puerto Rico. Angel was an outfielder for the NY Mets, the Chicago Cubs, and the San Francisco Giants before retiring to live on the island.
The couple invested $3.3M in the Puerto Rico bonds at the recommendation of their Merrill Lynch broker, Alex Jose Gierbolini (Gierbolini), who previously worked at UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (UBS). UBS has been the subject of thousands of investor claims for losses sustained when the Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end bond funds plunged in value beginning in 2013. It was while Gierbolini was a UBS financial representative that he sold to the Pagans the majority of their bonds.
Gierbolini continued to work with the couple when he moved to Merrill Lynch in 2012. They contend that Merrill Lynch and Gierbolini disregarded red flags indicating that the Puerto Rico bonds were headed downward. This left the Pagans’ portfolio overexposed.