UBS AG

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UBS AG
UBS.jpg
Founded 1872
Headquarters Zurich, Switzerland
Key People Chairman Axel Weber; Group Chief Executive Officer Sergio P. Ermotti
Employees 80,000
Products Capital-markets investment products and services; UBS PIN ATS
Website www.ubs.com

Century-old UBS, formerly Union Bank of Switzerland, has become a global financial-markets giant with CHF 3.2 trillion in invested assets. UBS has a worldwide business serving mostly wealthy customers and their corporations through acquisitions at home and abroad. UBS has been particularly hard hit by the U.S. sub-prime mortgage market meltdown and took a big loss on its 2007 results.

Background

UBS is divided into three business segments: UBS Global Asset Management, UBS Global Wealth Management, and UBS Investment and Business Banking.[1] The Investment Banking unit has been largely to blame for UBS's approximately $50 billion in credit-investment writedowns in 2007-08 and has recently seen its management shaken up.[2] Jerker Johansson, the head of the unit, stepped down on April 27, 2009 -- the fourth time the business had changed bosses in the past 18 months.[3]

History

Union Bank of Switzerland was formed originally in 1912 by the merger of two Swiss regional banks. The modern-day version was formed in 1998 when the original UBS merged with arch-rival Swiss Bank Corporation (SBC) to form UBS AG, which two years later acquired U.S. brokerage PaineWebber. Today it employs more than 80,000 people in over 50 countries.[4]

In August of 2009 the U.S. Internal Revenue Service lodged a request to its Swiss counterpart for data from UBS, stemming from a settlement to a suit between the IRS and UBS. The request began an administrative process aimed at getting information on more than 4,000 UBS clients.[5] UBS paid $780 million in 2009 to settle a criminal tax probe.

In 2012, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced an order against UBS AG and UBS Securities Japan Co., Ltd., bringing and settling charges of manipulation, attempted manipulation and false reporting of certain global benchmark interest rates.[6] The Order required UBS to pay a $700 million civil monetary penalty, cease and desist from further violations as charged, and take specified steps to ensure the integrity and reliability of its LIBOR and other benchmark interest rate submissions and improve related internal controls. In summary, CFTC’s Order found that over at least six years UBS regularly tried to manipulate multiple benchmark interest rates for profit, and at times succeeded in manipulating the official fixing of Yen LIBOR. The CFTC's order also found that more than 2,000 instances of unlawful conduct involving dozens of UBS employees, colluding with other panel banks, and inducing interdealer brokers to spread false information and influence other banks; and the CFTC order found UBS made false U.S. Dollar LIBOR and other submissions to protect its reputation during the global financial crisis. In addition, UBS paid $500 million in criminal fines and about $323.5 million to British and Swiss authorities, for a total of more than $1.5 billion in penalities for manipulation of the LIBOR.

Bad Year

After several years of double-digit profit growth, UBS suffered a loss of over $5.5 billion in 2007 and another loss of $12 billion just for the first quarter of 2008,[7] largely due to its failed subprime mortgage-backed investments. In April 2008 UBS announced another writedown of $19 billion on subprime mortgage-backed securities,[8] making UBS officially that market's biggest victim so far. UBS began building its mortgage-backed securities portfolio in 2005 that would eventually top $100 million in value.

The financial turmoil at UBS in 2007-2008 toppled both top office-holders inside 12 months: Chief Executive Peter Wuffli in July 2007 and Chairman Marcel Ospel in April 2008. Marcel Rohner was appointed the new CEO. He had been a member of the UBS Group executive board since 2002 and had been Wuffli's deputy since January 2006.[9] He was also appointed CEO of Investment Banking in October 2007 after previously serving as CEO of UBS's Wealth Management & Business Banking unit. He joined UBS AG predecessor SBC in 1992 and since 1999 has served as group chief risk officer.

Group general counsel Peter Kurer replaced Ospel as UBS chairman in June 2008. [10] The sudden appointment of 58-year-old Kurer, a company insider with no experience as a banker, to the UBS chair was sharply criticized by some shareholders.[11]

Oswald Gruebel was appointed CEO of UBS AG in February 2009. [12] Gruebel made the news in July 2011 when analysts began doubting his UBS pretax profit estimate of 15 billion Swiss francs ($18.3 billion). News reports predicted that this figure would have to drop by as much as 20 percent in 2014 due to troubled markets.[13]

LIBOR Rigging

Following investigations beginning in 2008, UBS was investigated and charged by a number of regulators with being part of a conspiracy to rig the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). The bank was given leniency or immunity by several authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, the Swiss Competition Commission, and European Union antitrust authorities in return for cooperating with the investigations and for turning over information regarding other banks involved in the conspiracy. UBS admitted wrongdoing.[14]

UBS also agreed to pay about $1.5 billion to settle charges by U.K., U.S. and Swiss authorities and "acknowledged" the charges. UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said all employees with any connection to the scandal had left UBS.

According to the FSA, UBS's attempts to rig the LIBOR rates mean that every version of the benchmark and other benchmarks in which UBS was involved "is at risk of having been improperly influenced" between January 2005 through 2010. Regulators said that dozens of UBS employees were involved in thousands of attempts to manipulate a variety of benchmark interest rates, sometimes with the encouragement of senior managers.[15]

Further Developments

In July 2010, UBS Wealth Management Americas hired a team that generated $3 million in annual fees and commissions while working for Goldman Sachs' corporate executive-focused division Ayco. The Dallas-based team of Trevor Fahr, David Folmnsbee, Andrew Noone and Ryan Anderson previously oversaw $558 million in client assets.[16]

In early August 2010, UBS was ordered to reimburse Maryland-based Kajeet Inc., which markets cellphones for kids, $80.8 million for damage to its business when Kajeet's cash was frozen in auction-rate securities in early 2008. Kajeet had invested only $8 million in the securities through UBS, according to people familiar with the case, the Wall Street Journal reported. UBS disagreed with the arbitration panel's decision and planned to file a motion to overturn it.[17]

In November 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed formal charges against UBS for inaccurate record keeping related to short sales. UBS agreed to pay $8 million and to hire an independent adviser in order to settle the charges. This followed a $12 million penalty paid in October 2011 to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for related charges.

UBS cut about 2,000 investment-banking jobs in 2011. It had 16,432 employees in investment banking at the end of the second quarter, down from a peak of roughly 24,000 in 2007. In the fall of 2012 UBS announced it would start another round of job cuts totaling roughly 400. Additional job losses that could run into the thousands were expected to follow.[18]

In April 2015 the Wall Street Journal reported that UBS would exit its U.S. automated options market-making business, although it would continue with other aspects of its options business. The firm plans to redeploy staff that previously worked on the automated options market making to more lucrative areas of the business, the WSJ said.[19]

Key People

Sergio P. Ermotti is group chief executive officer. He was appointed to that role in November 2011, having held the position on an interim basis since September 2011.[20]

Axel A. Weber was elected and appointed chairman of the board in 2012.


John Savercool John Lothian News Interview

How the Presidential Election Impacts Dodd-Frank: UBS Lobbyist John Savercool Interview
John Savercool, senior lobbyist and managing director of UBS Americas knows his politics. A 23-year veteran of Capitol Hill, Savercool recently spoke at the CTA EXPO in Chicago about the presidential election and prospects for Mitt Romney and President Obama next month. Savercool sat down with JLN editor-in-chief Jim Kharouf and spoke about the impact the presidential election will have on financial markets and Dodd-Frank, his expectations for coming Dodd-Frank rules, and what legislation is on his radar for next year. [21]

Tom Regazzi John Lothian News Interview

Single Minded: Tom Regazzi of UBS Finds a Niche with Single Stock Futures Interview
Single stock futures in the United States were launched in 2001, but are often forgotten since their big splash introduction twelve years ago on two exchanges. Quietly, however, single stock futures have been growing nicely at OneChicago, the sole marketplace for the instrument. Through the first nine months of 2013, its volumes are up 49 percent, with 6.96 million contracts traded, topping total volumes posted in all of 2012.

This market has also caught the eye of UBS and Tom Regazzi, managing director at the firm’s Global Synthetic Equity department. He spoke with JLN editor-in-chief Jim Kharouf about how UBS uses single stock futures and the potential for the product going forward. [22]

Registration

References

  1. Our company. UBS.
  2. UBS Shuffles European Mergers Team. Wall Street Journal.
  3. Head of UBS Investment Bank Unit Steps Down. New York Times Dealbook.
  4. UBS AG: a short history. UBS.
  5. U.S. Makes Formal Request for UBS Data. The Wall Street Journal.
  6. Press Release. CFTC.
  7. Key facts. UBS.
  8. UBS to Write Down Another $19 Billion. New York Times.
  9. Marcel Rohner. BusinessWeek.
  10. Peter Kurer. Forbes.
  11. Kurer replaces Ospel as UBS chairman. SwissInfo.com.
  12. Oswald J. Grübel. UBS.
  13. Gruebel’s Goals Obsolete as Capital Demands, Markets Weigh on UBS Profit. Bloomberg.
  14. UBS to Get Immunity in EU Libor Anitrust Case. The Wall Street Journal.
  15. UBS Admits Rigging Rates in 'Epic' Plot. The Wall Street Journal.
  16. UBS adds $3 million team from Goldman. Reuters.
  17. UBS to Pay $81 Million in Auction-Rate Case. Wall Street Journal.
  18. UBS Plans More Job Cuts. WSJ.com.
  19. UBS Exiting U.S. Automated Options Market-Making Business. The Wall Street Journal.
  20. Sergio Ermotti Bio. UBS.
  21. How the Presidential Election Impacts Dodd-Frank: UBS Lobbyist John Savercool Interview. John Lothian News.
  22. Single Minded: Tom Regazzi of UBS Finds a Niche with Single Stock Futures Interview. John Lothian News.