FINRA is trying to find ways for investors to expeditiously have their claims heard as a result of the UBS Puerto Rican closed-end bond fund debacle. Because of the limited number of Puerto Rican arbitrators, FINRA is exploring the possibility of allowing UBS investors to have their claims heard on the mainland.. UBS, however, is objecting and insisting claims be heard in Puerto Rico. Of course, this will cause significant delay due to the limited numbers of arbitrators.
“Investors have a right to have their claims processed expeditiously,” commented Peter Mougey, a partner with the Levin, Papantonio law firm and director of the firm’s Business Tort and Securities Litigation department. “Justice delayed is often justice denied,” says Mougey. “Many of these investors are elderly which should surprise no one,” says Mougey “because the UBS funds primary objective is to generate income.” These investors cannot afford delays and a long arbitration process.
UBS Financial Services in Puerto Rico is one of a number of firms that are currently embattled in litigation over the sale of financial products backed by Puerto Rico bonds. Attorneys for the investors argue that UBS concentrated investors’ life savings in opaque and conflict ridden bonds.
FINRA has authority and discretion to choose the venue where claims are heard. Puerto Rico currently has a total of nine arbitrators, according to the Chicago Tribune. Even if a few hundred arbitrators are brought into Puerto Rico, there still are not enough arbitrators to hear all the cases. Current estimates place the number of claims expected to be filed higher than 1500, according to Mougey. This would severely tax the arbitration system in the area and force litigants to experience unnecessary delays. Worst case is if arbitrators sit on multiple cases.
FINRA is currently evaluating how it will move forward.