Global financial services provider UBS is going to great lengths to show it is in a position of stability.
In a press release today UBS (UBS) “delivered a first-quarter adjusted profit before tax of CHF 1.9 billion ($2.04 billion), with strong results across all its businesses.”
These first-quarter results may help to assuage its critics, and the bank is noting its high-tier 1 capital ratio, is proof of its newfound strength.
“UBS’s BIS Basel III fully applied common equity tier 1 ratio rose 30 basis points to 10.1%, consolidating UBS’s position as the best-capitalized bank in its peer group,” the company said.
However, the Swiss bank is still facing huge liabilities based on its activities in the U.S. residential mortgage market between 2002 to 2007.
During the boom, UBS was a substantial issuer and underwriter of US residential mortgage-backed securities and big purchaser and seller of U.S. residential mortgages. Its subsidiary UBS Real Estate Securities deposited many of these mortgages in securitized trusts.
Since then, UBS was named as a defendant relating to its role as underwriter and issuer of RMBS in a large number of lawsuits. Its exposure to the claims is estimated at $44 billion. Perhaps the most notable of the lawsuits is the Federal Housing Finance Agency mortgage-backed securities fraud case. This is one of many the FHFA is pursuing, though UBS unsuccessfully tried to get the case thrown out.
The $44 billion in mortgage-related litigation claims has not moved substantially. In fact, UBS claimed the same degree of difficulty a year and a half ago.
At some point, the lawsuits will be resolved. And the earnings report shows UBS remains pragmatic about its chances.
“In connection with certain of these lawsuits, UBS has indemnification rights against surviving third-party issuers or originators for losses or liabilities incurred by UBS, but UBS cannot predict the extent to which it will succeed in enforcing those rights,” the earnings report notes.
A settlement announced in April 2013, may reduce UBS liabilities from $44 billion to $21 billion, and the original face amount of RMBS at issue in cases from $33 billion to $10 billion. But this writedown is subject to court approval. And even if approved, UBS said it might not pay up.
“UBS cannot make any assurance that this third-party issuer settlement, to which UBS is not required or expected to make a financial contribution, will receive court approval and be finalized,” the bank said.