Articles Posted in UBS

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.

Roanoke, VA – August 1, 2014

Lawyers with the Securities Law Firm of SHEPHERD SMITH EDWARDS & KANTAS LLP, www.sseklaw.com, are investigating claims involving Donna Tucker and UBS Financial Services, Inc.  Donna Tucker worked as a broker with A.G. Edwards for four years until she joined UBS Financial Services in November of 2007.  After working at UBS for about six years, Ms. Tucker was permanently barred from the industry by the Financial Institute Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).  FINRA began conducting an investigation sometime in 2013, during which it requested information from Ms. Tucker.  When Ms. Tucker refused to comply with that request, her license was suspended, and she was later permanently barred from working in the industry.

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Donna Tucker of operating a Ponzi scheme for almost the entire period of time she was working at UBS.  According to the SEC complaint, Ms. Tucker stole over $730,000 from her clients between January 2008 and April 2013.  She did this by forging checks drawn on client accounts, establishing margin loans on customer accounts without the knowledge or approval of the client, and used those funds to repay other customers.  To hide her actions, she ensured that her clients only received electronic statements, which Ms. Tucker knew her elderly clients would not check, and then falsified records that did not show anything amiss.  Ms. Tucker then used this money to fund a lavish lifestyle for herself, including vacations, multiple cars, expensive clothing, and a country club membership.

In the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Puerto Rico bond fraud case against ex-UBS Puerto Rico broker Jose Ramirez, a federal judge has found that Ramirez committed fraud and was in violation of securities laws when he directed customers to use lines of credit to purchase Puerto Rico closed-end funds.  In 2015, the SEC had filed charges against Ramirez accusing him of misleading customers regarding the Puerto Rico closed-end funds while advising them to use money from UBS Bank USA credit lines to buy UBS Puerto Rico fund shares. Ramirez allegedly made an additional $2.8 million in commissions as a result. The brokerage firm fired Mr. Ramirez in 2014.

According to U.S. District Court Judge Pedro Delgado-Hernandez, who granted the SEC’s motion for summary judgment, the ex-UBS Puerto Rick broker lied to customers and failed to tell them that if their collateral went down in value and reached a certain point, the customers might need to have their accounts liquidated to pay back the loans.

In 2013, following a number of credit downgrades, the Puerto Rico closed-end funds saw a substantial drop in value.  By September 2013, more than three dozen of Ramirez’s customers had $37 million in “margin maintenance calls” that required many clients to have their accounts liquidated.

A former UBS (UBS) banking official is claiming that Wall Street banks like his previous employer played a key role in the Puerto Rico economic crisis that has left the U.S. territory more than $70 billion in debt and mired in bankruptcy-like proceedings. The ex-UBS official, Carlos Capacete, was interviewed as part of a joint NPR and FRONTLINE probe.  Capacete worked for UBS Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) for over a quarter of a century and was the head of the biggest UBS branch on the island in Hato Rey.  At one point, Capacete oversaw $3 billion in client assets. Capacete left UBS in 2014 shortly after the crash in Puerto Rico bonds.

Prior to the market crash, Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end bond funds were highly profitable sales products for UBS and other banks on the island. While trying to prevent a government shutdown a number of years back, the U.S. territory started to borrow to pay for yearly government costs. This added $48 billion of debt in 14 years, reports PBS and FRONTLINE.

The Puerto Rico Debt Crisis Only Increased as Banks Made More Money 

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Panel has ruled that UBS must pay claimant Antonio Gnocchi Franco $204,000 in compensatory damages and $66,000 in costs for his Puerto Rico bond fraud case. Franco, a Puerto Rico resident who was also the trustee of his law firm’s pension plan, accused the brokerage firm of negligence, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, unauthorized trading, unsuitability, overconcentration, failure to supervise, unauthorized use of loan facilities, and unjust enrichment. According to the complaint, UBS had recommended that Franco invest in UBS bond funds and Puerto Rico bonds.

This customer win is yet another in a long line of customer wins against UBS for its investment and brokerage services provided in Puerto Rico. To date, FINRA arbitrators have ordered UBS to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to investors and UBS has paid many hundreds of millions more in settlements. Recently, UBS Puerto Rico and UBS Financial Services lost another Puerto Rico bond fraud case and were ordered to pay five former customers $521,000 in compensatory damages.

In total, UBS has been named in FINRA arbitration claims brought by thousands of investors that lost money from investing in UBS-packaged bond funds and Puerto Rico bonds. UBS Puerto Rico brokers, especially, have come under fire for allegedly recommending customers concentrate their investments in UBS Puerto Rico products, even when they were not suitable for customers in almost any amount. Moreover, many of these investors have alleged that UBS encouraged them to borrow against their own accounts so that customers could invest more. For example, the firm’s financial representatives are accused of advising clients to leverage their accounts and use them as collateral, sometimes for the purposes of purchasing even more UBS investments. This is a practice that should have never happened.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has awarded five people $521,000 in compensatory damages in their Puerto Rico bond fraud case against UBS Financial Services (UBS) and UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR). The claimants had accused the financial firm of securities fraud, constructive fraud, common law fraud, negligent supervision, breach of fiduciary duty, and violating the Puerto Rico Uniform Securities Act.

UBS has been the subject of hundreds of FINRA arbitration claims brought by thousands of investors who sustained losses from Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end bonds, with many UBS-PR customers contending that they sustained massive losses because these investments were inappropriately recommended to them. To date, the financial firm has been ordered to pay or agreed to pay in settlements hundreds of millions of dollars to investors, with more claims still pending.

For over four years, our Puerto Rico bond fraud law firm has worked with investors on the island and the U.S. to help those investors recover their losses from losses in Puerto Rico securities. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas today to request your free, no obligation consultation.

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Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) will pay a $30M civil penalty to resolve charges brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission accusing them of spoofing. According to the regulator, from at least 2/2008 through 9/2014, DB AG, with the help of a number of precious metal traders, sought to rig the price of precious metals futures contracts that were traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc.

The CFTC’s order said that the traders worked alone and with each other to buy or sell these contracts while planning all along to cancel them before they were executed after a smaller offer was made on the opposite side of the market. The spoof orders were purportedly made to give the impression of market depth in order to generate trading interest.

The regulator found that through the traders’ actions, Deutsche Bank AG sought to not only rig the price of precious metals futures contracts but also to profit from these manipulations. The CFTC said the firm worked with one trader in Singapore who made orders and trades to “trigger customer stop-loss orders.”

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According to a recent CNBC investigation, not only did UBS Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) fail to disclose to investors the risks involved in the bond funds UBS pushed on the island’s residents, but also the brokerage firm neglected to fully apprise its own brokers of the incredible risks. While these findings are not new, the CNBC probe digs deeper into the matter.

The majority of these investors were island locals, who have now also been further devastated as a result of Hurricane Maria. Already, UBS has come under fire and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in securities settlements and awards from FINRA arbitration panels over losses investors sustained when these investments failed dramatically more than four years ago. UBS also has settled with regulators, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and FINRA, and paid over $60 million for its wrongful conduct and abuse of investors. The firm did not, however, deny or admit to wrongdoing.

UBS Executives Purportedly Knew Puerto Rico Bonds Would Fail
CNBC’s investigative team obtained approximately “2,000 pages of confidential documents” that display conversations and the “inner workings” between UBS executives in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland prior to the funds’ collapse. According to the documents, as far back as a year before the Puerto Rico funds failed, UBS management already knew that problems were brewing and they discussed what could happen if the firm did not deal with these issues immediately.

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A jury in Manhattan federal court found that UBS Group (UBS) owes ex-commercial mortgage-backed securities strategist Trevor Murray $903K after he turned whistleblower on the Swiss lender. Murray contends that he was fired after reporting that CMBS traders had tried to affect his research reports, which were supposed to be independent.

Murray claims that UBS CMBS bond trading head and managing director David MacNamara insisted on screening drafts of the strategist’s reports in advance, which violates firm policy. The former UBS strategist accused Kenneth Cohen, his former boss, of being the one to instigate the pre-clearance process and calling his reports “off message.”

Testifying about one instance, Murray spoke about how Cohen instructed him not to put down anything negative regarding the hotel sector since UBS was engaged in financing for a Miami Beach hotel. The ex-UBS strategist said that he disregarded Cohen’s alleged instructions and notified clients about his worries.

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SEC Awards Whistleblower $4.1M
A company insider who notified the US Securities Exchange Commission about a “widespread, multi-year securities law violation” involving the employer, is getting a $4.1M whistleblower award. The individual, who is a foreign national employed abroad, also provided information and help during the regulator’s probe. Further details about the case have been kept confidential so as to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of the whistleblower.

This is the third whistleblower award issued this month by the SEC. The regulator awarded two other people $8M each for their help in another successful enforcement action.

To date, the SEC whistleblower program has awarded 50 whistleblowers over $179M.

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