Articles Tagged with UBS Municipal Bond Funds

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.

shutterstock_168737270This article continues our prior posts concerning a recent report by Bloomberg that noted the rise in rollovers from 401(k) plans into IRA accounts. The article pointed to concerns by regulatory agencies and investors concerning the suitability of the investment choices being recommended by brokers soliciting rollovers.

In another example, a mechanical engineer for Hewlett-Packard in Puerto Rico, rolled over $150,000 from a 401(k) to an IRA with UBS. His broker Luis Roberto Fernandez Diaz, recommended Puerto Rico municipal bond funds that contained a 3 percent upfront sales fee and 1 percent annual expenses. Fernandez’s brokercheck lists 17 customer disputes from 2009 through 2014. As we have reported on multiple occasions, our firm represents investors in claims against UBS concerning the firm’s practices in overconcentrating many of their client’s assets in these speculative highly leveraged bond funds. Those articles can be found here, here, and here.

In the case of an IRA, it makes little sense for a financial adviser to recommend investing in municipal bonds because the bonds main advantage is tax avoidance which already is a benefit of investing in an IRA. The investor interviewed by Bloomberg, says that the bonds plunged in value because of the deteriorating finances of Puerto Rico and are only worth $90,000.

shutterstock_115937266A recent article by Bloomberg highlighted a disturbing trend whereby brokers of independent brokerage firms have been able to make substantial profits while providing allegedly unsuitable investment advice and potentially tanking the retirement savings of potentially hundreds and maybe thousands of blue collar workers. These brokerage firms have been able to tap into large corporations with thousands of employees with 401(k) plans and convince them to rollover their accounts to their firm into IRAs. Once there, the brokers recommend unsuitable investments in an already tax-deffered account such as municipal bond funds and variable annuities. Some of the investments are extremely speculative and carry huge commissions and fees. In the end the brokers make hundreds of thousands in commissions while the investor is left with a depleted retirement account.

How the practice works is that brokers form connections with large employers in order to pitch their investment services to employees. Because the employer allows the broker to use their offices and facilities to pitch their investment services, employees often mistakenly believe that the company endorses or has otherwise evaluated the broker. In fact, these companies often have little to no relationship with the broker or a defined screening process.

According to Bloomberg, employees shifted $321 billion from 401(k)-style plans to individual retirement accounts in 2012. As a result, IRAs account assets are up to $6.5 trillion, more than the $5.9 trillion contained in 401(k)-style accounts. However, the shifts have been used by some Wall Street firms to profit at their client’s expense. IRAs often charge higher fees than 401(k) plans which provides brokers an incentive to promote rollovers.

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