A view of the headquarters of Swiss bank UBS Group in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Swiss banking titan UBS has been fined US$51 million by Hong Kong authorities for overcharging global customers for almost a decade, saying it had failed to “act in its clients’ best interests.”

The city’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said the company manipulated the price of trades for bonds and structured products from 2008 to 2015 and also applied excessive fees for some clients between 2008 and 2017.

SFC chief executive Ashley Alder said in a statement: “Although each overcharge represented a fraction of each trade, UBS’s misconduct involved deception and a pervasive abuse of trust resulting in significant additional revenue for UBS to which it was not entitled.”

Officials said that UBS was found to have falsified account statements by misreporting the spread amounts for the trades.

“The SFC considers that UBS not only failed to observe the fundamental and overarching duty to act in its clients’ best interests but also abused the trust of unsuspecting clients by failing to disclose conflicts of interest and overcharging them in opaque trades,” it said in the statement released Monday.

It added that the overcharge practices affected about 5,000 Hong Kong-managed client accounts in about 28,700 transactions.

UBS was fined HK$400 million ($51 million) and the SFC said the bank would repay the full value of the overcharged amount together with interest, which would amount to about HK$200 million.

The bank was among a number of lenders that were told in March to pay a combined HK$787 million to settle cases linked to their work on initial public offerings in the city.


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