UBS Agrees to Repay Investors of Risky Securities

May 8, 2008 ( - UBS Financial Services Inc. reached an agreement with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to return $37 million to 17 cities and towns, as well as to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, for allegedly misleading them about investments they thought were safe.

The Boston Globe reports that Coakley found that the brokerage firm had not fully disclosed the risks of the investments, called auction-rate securities. Cities were unable to get their money when the market for these investments failed almost overnight.

According to the news report, the settlement was the first admission by UBS or any U.S. brokerage that something may have been amiss in the sales of municipal debt securities. The market for these securities relied on weekly and monthly auctions run by brokerage firms, and the market failed when starting in February, the auctions attracted only sellers and no buyers.

UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne told the Globe the settlement was a one-time event, based on a state law that requires towns and cities keep cash in only highly liquid accounts that are readily accessible. Byrne said the agreement addressed the Attorney General’s finding that the securities were “not permissible” in municipal accounts, according to the news report.