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The original rogue trader: 20 years on

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 02:47

It's 20 years since the collapse of one of the world's oldest banks and Nick Leeson - the trader jailed after the collapse of Barings Bank – tells Reuters not enough lessons have been learned. Ivor Bennett reports

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He is the original rogue trader. The man who single-handedly brought down Britain's oldest bank. Nick Leeson's losses at Barings totalled a staggering 1.4 billion dollars. But 20 years on, he says the lessons still haven't been learnt. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK LEESON, SAYING: "The story is one of incompetence and negligence on a grand scale. I think every time you see financial scandal be that rogue trading, be that global financial collapse, it's poor systems, poor controls and poor people. I think it characterises everything that's wrong that happens in the market place." There have been others since Leeson. Kweku Adoboli racked up losses of 2.3 billion dollars at UBS. Jerome Kerviel over 6 billion at Societe Generale. But it's Leeson's story that perhaps resonates the loudest. The enduring images taken at Frankfurt airport, where the 28-year old was arrested after going on the run. Leeson then spent three and half years behind bars in Singapore for fraud and illegal trading. But until the punishments extend to those higher up, he thinks there'll still be more to come. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK LEESON, SAYING: "For me the deterrent isn't good enough, the punishment isn't meaningful enough, and when you've got a situation like that people aren't really scared that anything's going to be done to them. The chain of command needs to be looked at a lot more and they need to be held accountable for the culture and the activities that exist within the organisation." Leeson was covering up losses for three years before he was caught. With bosses in London seemingly oblivious to what was going on. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK LEESON, SAYING: "People were accepting what I was telling them, there was this inclination to believe. But they didn't really get behind the detail and look into it and challenge as they should've done. And that's the problem - a severe lack of challenge at the time at Baring's and I think that exists to this day within financial markets." The Libor scandal and last year's forex rate rigging suggests he might be right. But ETX Capital's Joe Rundle thinks some lessons have been learnt. SOUNDBITE (English) JOE RUNDLE, ETX CAPITAL, SAYING: "I think banks have largely self-regulated ahead of the regulators because there's so much persecution about banks now especially coming into a UK election and then a US election. But you are going to see these stories keep coming out as people really root into the banks to either try and raise money and capital through large finds or score political points." Leeson now lives in Ireland where he works as a debt councilor. topping up his earnings with after-dinner speeches. Although he won't be working in banking again Leeson says he wouldn't stop his children from doing so describing it as a fantastic place to work.

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The original rogue trader: 20 years on

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 02:47