Articles Tagged with Puerto Rico Debt

shutterstock_157106939-300x300The law offices of Gana LLP continue to report on investor related losses and potential legal remedies due to recommendations to invest in Puerto Rico bonds and bond funds.   The island has been meeting with creditors before a U.S. bankruptcy judge in the largest public finance restructuring case.  The sides have been in mediation settlement talks to concerning the outcome of the island’s $70 billion debt.  However, according to news reports, the process could take years.  In fact, it has taken more than two years of debate with Puerto Rico’s government, creditors, and federal lawmakers just to get to this point.

According to some source Puerto Rico bond investors recovery ranges could be as low as 10 to 20 cents on the dollar when the island emerges.  Why so little?  How much can $70 to $100 billion be worth when there are only 1.4 million workers in Puerto Rico and a 45% poverty rate?  In fact, workers are leaving the island in record numbers that will soon be made worse by Hurricane Maria.  84,000 people moved from Puerto Rico to the United States in 2014 resulting in 1.8% of the island leaving.

Mostly retail investors will be the victims of the Puerto Rico debt debacle.  While news focus on hedge funds that have bought Puerto Rico bonds, only about 25 percent of Puerto Rican debt is held by hedge funds.  Compare that to the estimated 500,000 individual bondholders and hundreds of thousands more investors who purchased Puerto Rico mutual funds.

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shutterstock_190371512The investment attorneys of Gana LLP are investigating potential recovery options for investors in the Stone Lion Capital Partners (Stone Lion). According to the Wall Street Journal, Stone Lion suspended redemptions in its credit high yield related hedge funds after many investors sought to redeem their investments. Stone Lion was founded in 2008 by Gregory Hanley and Alan Mintz. The fund is now facing heavy losses on distressed junk bonds, post reorganization equities, and other specialized investments. According to Stone Lion, suspending redemptions was the only way to ensure fair and equitable treatment for the fund’s investors. In addition, Stone Lion manages several funds including another fund that has bet on Puerto Rico debt that also bears watching as the island continues to default on its debts.

Stone Lion’s fund freeze follows several others in the high yield space that our firm is tracking including the Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund and Claren Road Asset Management LLC. The recent closures are nearly unprecedented in the hedge-fund industry since the end of the financial crisis and shows the difficulty facing traders looking to sell risky and hard to value positions.

Stone Lion’s hedge funds are down about 7% through the end of July. At that time the fund cut off prospective investors from receiving updates. Since that time the funds have continued to suffer significant losses and documents examined by the Wall Street Journal indicate the funds manage 24% less now than from July 2015.

According to news sources, high yield and distressed debt hedge-funds and mutual funds are suffering severe losses and asset freezes due to changes in regulations under the Volcker rule, a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which has made holding high yield debt inventory more expensive for banks and brokerage firms.

Because regulators demand more capital for holding risky assets, when funds try to sell bad positions it can be harder to find buyers for the securities in those portfolios. The issue has become exacerbated in certain beat down sectors including energy. Because there are fewer buyers it is difficult to determine what the value of the security is. Because the regulations were not in effect during the 2008 financial crisis the effects of the rule have not been tested under distressed market conditions.

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shutterstock_115937266According to UBS’ second quarter earnings report, the bank is now looking at over $600 million in claims brought by Puerto Rico investors, who have suffered significant losses related to their investments in closed-end bond funds. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has been inundated with a plethora of claims in connection with the closed-end UBS Puerto Rico Bond Funds. Investors are looking to be made whole after they purportedly received misleading information regarding these investments. While the majority of the claims were filed against UBS Financial Services of Puerto, other firms, including Merrill Lynch, Banco Popular, Santander Securities, and Oriental Financial Services have also been named as Respondents in many of the claims.

UBS recognizes the perilous situation that it now faces with respect to these claims, explaining, “declines in the market prices of Puerto Rico municipal bonds and of UBS Puerto Rico sole-managed and co-managed closed-end funds since August 2013 have led to multiple regulatory inquiries, as well as customer complaints and arbitrations with aggregate claimed damages exceeding [$]600 million filed by clients in Puerto Rico who own those securities.”

Some of the claims that UBS face, including clients represented by our firm, include allegations of unsuitability, over-concentration, fraud, and breach of contract among others. FINRA and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board require broker dealers to have a reasonable basis to support the suitability of their recommendations to customers. Legal representatives for many claimants have said that the UBS employees prioritized commissions when they sold the closed-end bond funds to Puerto Rican investors, who were not economically equipped to make those investments.

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