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UBS currency-product sales probed by US Justice Department

Monday, February 9, 2015 - 17:44

[NEW YORK] The US Justice Department is looking into whether UBS Group AG misled clients in the marketing and selling of some foreign-exchange structured products, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Investigators have asked UBS employees in recent weeks about the UBS V10 Enhanced FX Carry Strategy, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the interviews are private. The Justice Department is focusing on whether banks misrepresented pricing for the currency transactions as part of its wider probe into manipulation in the foreign-exchange market, two people said.

The V10 product first arose in the Justice Department's interviews with UBS employees in 2013, one person said. The investigators are examining commissions on the product and whether the bank honored its fiduciary duties to clients, according to the person.

Authorities around the world are probing the US$5.3 trillion- a-day currency market, investigations that led six banks including UBS to pay US$4.3 billion to regulators in the US, UK and Switzerland in November in a first round of settlements. UBS will probably be the first bank to reach an agreement with the Justice Department after securing leniency on the antitrust side as the first to cooperate, people with knowledge of the probes have said.

Shares Fall A settlement for the Zurich-based bank ending the Justice Department's fraud and antitrust probes is still months away, according to one of the people.

UBS shares fell 1.2 per cent to 16.01 Swiss francs as of 9:16 am in Zurich, valuing the bank at about 62 billion francs (US$67 billion). They are down 6.2 per cent this year.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in November that the US was close to announcing criminal and civil resolutions in the currency investigation. Banks had a December deadline to disclose wrongdoing to prosecutors, a person with knowledge of the probe said at the time.

A spokesman for UBS and Emily Pierce, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The V10 product "allows an investor to potentially profit in moves in 10 of the most liquid major currencies by taking advantage of opportunities based on interest rate differentials," according to a 2009 UBS publication.

The Financial Times reported earlier on the investigation into structured products at UBS and Barclays Plc. A spokesman for Barclays declined to comment on the report.

UBS has suspended a number of employees as a result of the currency probe from its offices in New York, Singapore and Switzerland. Eleven of its current and former traders in foreign-exchange and precious metals are also under investigation by the Swiss financial markets regulator.

BLOOMBERG

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