Articles Posted in Puerto Rico UBS Bond

Two different groups of investors were recently awarded nearly $9.3 million in their respective Puerto Rico bond fraud claims against UBS Financial Services (UBS). These are just the latest Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration claims where the Swiss giant and its Puerto Rico-based brokerage firm have been ordered to pay customers after selling over $10 billion of closed-end funds that were heavily invested in the island’s municipal debt. To date, UBS has paid hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars to investors in either arbitration awards or settlements.

In one of these latest Puerto Rico investor fraud cases, the claimants are three investors and their related businesses and trusts. The customer claimants contend that UBS violated FINRA’s rules and the U.S. territory’s securities laws, as well as committed other fraudulent acts. Now, the FINRA arbitration panel has awarded them $4.25 million in compensatory damages, interest, and $170,000 for costs.

In the other Puerto Rico bond fraud claim, the claimants were customers alleging constructive fraud, common law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, negligent supervision, breach of contract, and fraudulent concealment. The FINRA arbitration panel awarded them $4.8 million in damages.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a district court ruling from the lower court over whether bondholders of nearly $3 billion of debt issued by Puerto Rico’s Employees Retirement System (ERS) have a claim on the pension fund’s assets. The pension fund is designated for the island’s public employees.

In 2008, the ERS issued roughly $3 billion in bonds that were sold as having a first lien on all assets of the ERS system, including future governmental deposit. These types of bonds are issued by many pension funds to cover pension shortfalls and are commonly known as Pension Obligation Bonds, or POBs.

The original pension fund lawsuit was brought after the island’s government passed legislation that would allow the government to pay retirees the pension obligation they were owed from Puerto Rico’s general fund, rather than through payments to the ERS. The territory’s pension system, confronted with an almost 100% funding shortfall, had liquidated all cash assets.

UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) and two investors will now arbitrate a Puerto Rico closed-end bond fraud lawsuit accusing the investment arm of the Swiss bank of improperly structuring investments. The plaintiffs, Augusto Schreiner and Nora Fernandez, contend that UBS, its Puerto Rican subsidiaries, firm executives, and Banco Popular de Puerto Rico failed to suitably examine nearly two dozen closed-end mutual funds that held the beleaguered island’s government bonds.

Schreiner and Fernandez were initially part of an attempt to file a class action lawsuit against UBS and its subsidiaries. However, last month, US District Court Judge Sidney H. Stein refused to grant the case class certification status.

The Court found that because all of the plaintiffs had different investment objectives, they would not be able to demonstrate that the mutual funds were unsuitable in general. Judge Stein ruled that it was up to each investor to prove individually, according to their respective needs, objectives, and ability to handle risk, that UBS had neglected to properly analyze the risks that came with the funds.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel is ordering UBS Financial Services (UBS) and UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) to pay investor Jose F. Pastrana $693K, including at least $564,559 in damages, legal fees, and other costs in its Puerto Rico bond fraud case. UBS also must buy back from Pastrana some of the illiquid closed-end funds that he purchased from the firm at what their market price was at the end of July. AdvisorHub says that this amount will total $128K.

Pastrana had accused the broker-dealer of:

  • Negligence

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel is ordering UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) to pay restitution of almost $19.8M in an arbitration case involving Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end funds that were sold to investors. This is the largest amount that UBS has paid to date to claimants in a Puerto Rico bond fraud case.

The arbitration ruling involved not only the sale of the Puerto Rico bonds but also how credit lines were used as part of the investing strategies involving the investor accounts. Of the $19.8M: $14.9M is for compensatory damages, $745K is interest, $3.9M is legal fees, and $215K is for other costs.

This is just one of several Puerto Rico bond and closed-end bond fraud awards that UBS and its affiliated financial firm, UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), have been ordered to pay in the last few years. In December 2016, A FINRA arbitration panel ordered UBS to pay $18.6M to two UBS clients who had alleged breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and other violations over their Puerto Rico securities losses.

U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein is refusing to grant class action certification to a group of investors suing UBS Puerto Rico over its sale of proprietary closed-end mutual funds. In particular, the class action complaint dealt with a series of 23 closed-end bond funds that UBS Puerto Rico developed and marketed exclusively to Puerto Rico residents.

These proprietary closed-end funds were comprised of at least 2/3 Puerto Rico debt (and often much higher), resulting in a geographic concentration that placed the owners of such funds at a great risk if anything negative happened on the island. Additionally, the UBS closed-end funds were highly leveraged, typically borrowing $1 for every $1 invested, meaning that any losses in the closed-end funds would be significantly increased.

Notwithstanding the above, the plaintiff investors say that UBS falsely depicted these closed-end mutual funds as safe and secure investments that would garner fund holders tax-free income when, in truth, the mutual funds were “ticking time bombs” that were actually very risky.


San Juan, Puerto Rico – October 3, 2013

Lawyers with the Securities Law Firm of Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LLP,  are investigating claims involving Puerto Rico UBS bond funds.  UBS has been the most prominent broker-dealer operating in Puerto Rico for a number of years.  As a result, many, if not most, individuals in Puerto Rico with brokerage accounts use UBS, resulting in UBS managing roughly $10 billion of assets of Puerto Rico residents.

Unfortunately, UBS recommended that many of these clients make significant investments in proprietary UBS bond funds. These UBS bond funds, such as the Tax-Free Puerto Rico Fund II, invest primarily in Puerto Rico municipal bonds.

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