UBS Ordered to Pay $5.2M over YES Options Trading Program

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Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitrators have ordered UBS to pay damages to investors over its Yield Enhancement Strategy, the firm’s in-house options-trading strategy, in one of the larger awards connected to the program, according to news reports.

George and Sandra Schussel, a retired couple, accused the Swiss-based firm of misrepresentation, unsuitability and breach of fiduciary duty in connection to the strategy close to three years ago, Barron’s writes. Last week, arbitrators ordered UBS to pay the Schussels a total of $5.2 million in damages and to cover $28,950 of their hearing costs, according to the publication.

“The key to the case was the relationship between the broker and the client, with an emphasis on the fiduciary duty of a financial advisor,” said the Schussels’ attorney, John Rich, of New York law firm Rich, Intelisano & Katz. “We really emphasized to the panel that the fiduciary duty required more from the advisor than to sign what were effectively waivers.”

A UBS spokesman declined to comment on the case, the publication writes.

Rich says that his firm is representing other clients in their claims related to the YES strategy, according to Barron’s.

The YES program, purportedly designed to limit exposure during market volatility by placing several option trades at different strike prices with the same expiration dates, suffered substantial losses starting in December 2018.

UBS has been the target of numerous Finra arbitration claims related to the strategy, with about half getting decided in the firm’s favor and the rest resulting in millions of dollars awarded to investors.

In June, meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission and UBS reached a settlement in the amount of $25 million over allegations of fraud tied to the strategy.

At the time, the regulator said that from February 2016 through February 2017, UBS sold the strategy to some 600 buyers through its advisors.