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UK fines UBS $15 million for failings in AIG fund sale

A woman woman walks past a construction road sign in front of a branch of Swiss Bank UBS in Lugano, southern Switzerland December 20, 2012.
A woman woman walks past a construction road sign in front of a branch of Swiss Bank UBS in Lugano, southern Switzerland December 20, 2012.

LONDON (Reuters) - UBS has been fined 9.45 million pounds ($14.8 million) by Britain's financial regulator for exposing customers to unacceptable risk when it sold an AIG investment fund in the latest blow to the Swiss bank's battered reputation.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said on Tuesday the bank also failed to deal properly with customer complaints about the AIG fund sale.

UBS was fined $1.5 billion in December for its part in a global interest rate rigging scandal a year after the bank stunned markets with a $2.3 billion rogue-trading loss.

The FSA said UBS sold the AIG Enhanced Variable Rate Fund - which aimed to improve returns by investing in assets backed by securities and floating rate notes - to almost 2,000 high net worth customers between December 1, 2003 and September 15, 2008.

Initial investments were about 3.5 billion pounds. But as share prices plunged during the 2007/08 credit crisis, customers rushed to withdraw cash prompting UBS to suspend the fund, leaving 565 UBS clients unable to access about 816 million pounds invested.

The FSA said UBS had mis-sold the fund to at least 19 customers and had mishandled at least 11 complaints. It estimates that the bill for compensating customers will come to around 10 million pounds.

"UBS's conduct fell far short of what its customers deserved and what the FSA requires," said Tracey McDermott, head of the FSA's enforcement and financial crime division.

"It failed to ensure it understood the product it was selling, failed to recommend it to the right customers and failed to take effective action in the financial crisis when the problems with the fund came to the fore."

UBS said it was glad to draw a line under the investigation.

"We are pleased that we can put this issue that dates back to 2008 behind us, so that we can continue to focus on serving our clients and executing our strategy," it said in a statement.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley, Editing by Sinead Cruise and Jane Merriman)

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