A Puerto Rico Bond Investor’s Portfolio Gets Scarier With Potential Downgrade To Junk

When a UBS Puerto Rico bond investor looks at their account these days, if they have the courage to do so, they are probably staring at losses over the past two months of 50% to 60%.

And it could get a lot worse. At least one ratings agency, Fitch, is most likely preparing to downgrade Puerto Rico’s bond rating to junk, and that would have disastrous affects for investors in UBS closed-end Puerto Rico bond funds along with a wide swath of municipal bond fund holders.

In other words, it’s getting scarier for investors who own UBS Puerto Rico bond funds as well as other municipal bond funds heavily invested in Puerto Rico.

What happened?

Readers of this blog over recent weeks know the story of Puerto Rico’s municipal debt disaster well by now, but it’s worth repeating.

As Reuters reported last week: “A cut in Fitch’s rating to junk would be widely felt in America’s $3.7 trillion municipal bond market, where Puerto Rico’s $70 billion of high yielding debt is held by many mutual funds and other institutional investors. Interest rates on Puerto Rico debt have shot up in recent months amid worries about its finances and a sputtering economy, which appears to be tumbling back into recession.”

And the outlook is bad. “Fitch said in a news release that it worried that the island’s ability to issue bonds had become limited and weighed on the government’s overall liquidity, which the agency said could be bolstered by the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico,” according to Reuters. Like Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s also rate Puerto Rico’s government obligation bonds one notch above junk. They also have negative outlooks on the island Commonwealth.

As Peter Hayes, head of the municipal bond group at BlackRock told Fox Business news last week: “How are they possibly going to repay that ($70 billion) debt without borrowing more?” Fitch’s warning is a six month precursor to a ratings move downward, Hayes said.

Sad to say, the situation is worsening for Puerto Rico and its bond investors.

Zamansky LLC are securities and investment fraud attorneys representing investors in federal and state litigation against financial institutions.

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About Jacob H. Zamansky 58 Articles

Jacob (”Jake”) H. Zamansky is one of the country’s foremost authorities on securities arbitration law, the legal recourse for investors claiming broker wrongdoing, or for brokers claiming wrongful termination or other misconduct by their employer. Zamansky & Associates, the New York-based law firm he founded, represents both individuals and institutions in complex securities, hedge fund, and employment arbitrations.

Mr. Zamansky was at the forefront of recent efforts to “clean up” Wall Street. In 2001, he successfully sued former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget on behalf of a New York pediatrician misled by Blodget’s stock research. The case’s successful resolution was the catalyst for New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to investigate the conflicts of interest on Wall Street and resulted in the well-reported $1.4 billion Global Settlement, which included many of the biggest names on Wall Street.

More recently, Mr. Zamansky is one of the leading litigators and opinion leaders of the subprime mortgage crisis and the related hedge fund collapses, representing both investors and mortgage borrowers who were defrauded by Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders. Among Mr. Zamansky’s early actions is filing the first arbitration case on behalf of institutional and high net worth investors against Bear Stearns Asset Management with regard to the two hedge funds which collapsed as a result of exposure to subprime mortgage backed securities. He also has filed claims on behalf of individual investors victimized by brokers that steered their portfolios into unsuitable subprime stocks and mortgage borrowers who were fraudulently coerced into inappropriate mortgage and investment transactions.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Zamansky worked for more than 30 years as a litigator, including positions at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP. His tenure also included serving as a federal prosecutor with the Federal Trade Commission.

A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Zamansky has been a frequent expert commentator on CNBC, CNN, and FOX News and has published opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and USA Today. He is regularly quoted and his cases have been chronicled in major financial and news publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. He is a frequent lecturer for industry and legal groups around the country. He also writes a blog that can be viewed here.

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