In mid-February 2015, ratings agency Moody's downgraded already troubled Puerto Rico General Obligation bonds to CAA1 – which is seven levels below investment grade. Standard & Poor's had them at B. Two-and-a-half months later, that B rating has fallen to CCC+. This is well into “junk bond” territory, and only four notches above “default” status.
“Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene 7
The beginning of life (“the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms,” as Shakespeare's Jaquis describes it in that play) and the end of life have many similarities. “Second childhood” requires as much care and supervision as the first, and often more; like infants, many elderly are vulnerable.
The Takata airbag recently claimed another victim. In March, an unidentified driver of a 2003 Honda Civic was injured when the airbag deployed and the inflator housing shattered, sending a jagged piece of metal into the neck. The driver survived after emergency surgery, but has still filed a lawsuit against the automaker.
U.S. health insurance companies historically have never given an tinker's damn about patient lives. In a profit-driven system, their only concern has been maximizing those profits. If a treatment or a patient's condition threatened to cut into those profits, they would simply deny or drop coverage and allow the patient to suffer and die.
UBS of Puerto Rico deceived its customers, costing many their life's savings though high-risk investments. This is not recent news. Nor is the fact that managers and supervisors (namely, one Miguel Ferrer, former Chairman of UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico) pressured brokers and advisors to sell these high-risk investments to clients they knew to be inappropriate for their level of risk tolerance and ability to sustain loss.
In 1903, an adventurous pair of young men set out from San Francisco to New York City in a used Winton automobile, powered by a 20 horsepower, two-cylinder engine. A little over two months later, having traveled primarily on dirt trails through regions of the country where filling stations and repair facilities were virtually non-existent, Horatio Jackson and Seward Crocker arrived in New York City.
A bit of interesting news has been flying under the radar involving a legal skirmish between Japanese drug maker Daiichi-Sankyo, manufacturer of the hypertension medication Benicar, and a couple of upstart companies that would like to produce and market their own generic versions. A federal judge's recent ruling on non-infringement of patent will allow Apotex, Inc. to enter the generic market earlier than it would have otherwise – but given the ongoing controversies over the drug, it's hard to know why it would want to.
Shades of Lucretia Borgia. According to legend, the daughter of the infamous Pope Alexander VI was known for her skills with, and use of, various poisons.
In 2012, U.K.-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) paid $1 billion to resolve criminal charges (misbranding two products and failing to report safety data on another). The company also paid out an additional $2 billion to settle civil liabilities with the U.S. government for violations of the False Claims Act. Among these violations was the off-label promotion of Zofran, a medication originally intended to treat post-operative nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
This April of 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion that poisoned the Gulf Coast and destroyed lives and livelihood. Meanwhile, despite spending almost $45 billion to “make it right” (according to some media sources, the total could still exceed $50 billion), things are far from becoming “right.”
In 1916, a war in Europe was dragging on into its second year, Woodrow Wilson was up for re-election, ragtime music was all the rage – and establishment of the U.S. Highway System was still a decade away. Cross-country travel via motor car was still a novelty; “auto trails” were largely unpaved. Filling stations, repair shops and lodging facilities were few and far between.
The good news is that the rate at which recreational boaters are involved in boat accidents is down significantly. The United States Coast Guard reports that over a fifteen-year period between 1997 and 2012, the number of boating accidents involving death from injuries dropped from 8,047 to 4,515 – a reduction of nearly 50%.
One fact is abundantly clear: Puerto Rico's governor, Alejandro Padilla, is not about to win any popularity contests. Currently, 104,000 Puerto Ricans have signed a petition to President Obama calling for his resignation.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Puerto Rico's beleaguered public utility, has gotten a short reprieve from its creditors. But will it actually help bondholders and average investors?
That is the big question.
UBS Financial may not be the only investment firm alleged to have cost its investors millions of dollars in the meltdown of the Puerto Rican bond market, but it's definitely the biggest. It should come as no surprise; in addition to a past record of questionable and even criminal activities, UBS is getting plenty of bad reviews from highly dissatisfied customers – even those who didn't lose their life savings.