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UBS Fined By FINRA For Lehman Principal Protected Note Meltdown

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority imposed a $2.5 million fine on UBS AG’s (UBS) wealth-management services unit and ordered $8.25 million in restitution in settlement of charges that it had misled investors about the risk of default in certain Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. notes.

In the months leading up to Lehman’s collapse, UBS Financial Services Inc. advertised the investment bank’s so-called principal-protection notes without emphasizing that the debt was still unsecured, Finra said. Lehman eventually filed for bankruptcy in September 2008.

PPNs are fixed-income securities with a bond and an option component that promise a minimum return equal to the investor’s initial investment. They don’t guarantee the principal in the event of a default.

“This matter underscores a firm’s need to be clear and comprehensive in disclosing risks of the structured products it sells to retail investors,” Finra enforcement chief Brad Bennett said. “In cases, UBS’s financial advisers did not even understand the complex products they were selling, and as a result, they neglected to disclose necessary information to customers about the issuer’s credit risk so investors would understand the magnitude of the potential losses.”