UBS to pay $1.44 billion to settle 2007 financial crisis-era mortgage fraud case

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NEW YORK (AP) — UBS will pay U.S. authorities $1.44 billion to settle the last lingering legal case over Wall Street’s role in the housing bubble of the early 2000s, which ultimately led to the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession.

The Swiss bank agreed to pay a civil penalty over how it handled the sale of 40 mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006 and 2007. The settlement argues that UBS bankers gave false and misleading statements about the health of the mortgages in those bonds to the buyers in violation of federal securities law.

For example, UBS bankers knew that the underlying mortgages in these bonds were poorly underwritten or violated consumer protection laws. The bonds in question ended up with substantial losses for investors.

With the UBS settlement, the last remaining outstanding legal case from the Great Recession has now come to a close, the Justice Department said. Banks paid collectively more than $36 billion in civil penalties for their conduct related to the mortgage crisis, but that does not include other settlements that banks have made to state and local authorities as well.

The financial crisis and subsequent recession is still being felt today in many parts of the country in depressed housing values. It also was a seismic shift politically, leading to the rise of populist candidates both here in the U.S. and internationally.

UBS said that it already had set aside funds for the settlement, so it will not impact its financial results.

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Separately Monday, Swiss media reported that two groups acting on behalf of Credit Suisse shareholders filed suit in Swiss courts to argue that the sale price to UBS – around $3.25 billion – far undervalued the bank, and that UBS was able to unjustly profit from the deal.

The Swiss government hastily arranged the takeover in March of Credit Suisse, which had been facing years of turmoil and an exodus of shareholders, by longtime rival UBS to help avert a global financial crisis.

AP reporter Jamey Keaten contributed to this report from Geneva.

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