Saturday, September 30, 2006

Infamous Crimes - Nick Leeson and Barings Bank

Article Courtesy :

The week before Nick Leeson disappeared he kept throwing up at work.

Colleagues did not know why, but were soon to find out.

The ego of a 28-year-old trader on the Singapore Monetary Exchange and the greed and stupidity of a 233 year-old bank had combined to destroy an investment empire, and in the process stunned the world.

Nick Leeson's life started as a classic rags-to-riches tale. He was the working class son of a plasterer from a Watford council estate, who failed his final maths exam and left school with a mere handful of qualifications. Nevertheless, in the early 1980s, he landed a job as a clerk with royal bank Coutts, followed by a string of jobs with other banks. He finally settled up with Barings, where he quickly made an impression and was promoted to the trading floor.

Before long, he was appointed manager of a new operation in futures markets on the Singapore Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) and was soon making millions for Barings by betting on the future direction of the Nikkei Index. His bosses back in London, who viewed his large profits with glee, trusted the whizzkid. Leeson and his wife Lisa seemed to have everything: a salary of £50,000 with bonuses of up to £150,000, weekends in exotic places, a smart apartment and frequent parties. To top it all they even seemed to be very much in love.

The job of a derivatives trader is akin to a book maker once removed: taking bets on people making bet. Leeson started by buying and selling the simplest kind of derivatives futures pegged to the Nikkei 225 - the Japanese equivalent to the UK's FTSE 100.

At the time, the trader only had to put down a small percentage of the amount that was being traded. It was therefore easily possible for the money on the table to be exceeded many times by losses. However Leeson seemed to be infallible to Barings Chief Executives and by the end of 1993, he had made more than £10m - about 10 per cent of total profit that year.

Barings believed that it wasn't exposed to any losses because Leeson claimed that he was executing purchase orders on behalf of a client. What the company did not realise was that it was responsible for error account 88888, where Leeson hid his losses. This account had been set up to cover up a mistake made by an inexperienced team member, which led to a loss of £20,000. Leeson now used this account to cover his own mounting losses.

In a fatal mistake, the bank allowed Leeson to remain Chief Trader while being responsible for settling his trades, a job that is usually split. This made it much simpler for him to hide his losses.

By December 1994 the red ink hidden in account 88888 totalled $512million. Getting increasingly desperate Leeson bet that the Nikkei index would not drop below 19,000 points. At the time this seemed reasonable as the Japanese economy was rebounding after a 30 month recession. Then on the 17th January 1995, a devastating earthquake measuring 7.2 hit the Japanese city of Kobe.

The previously stable Nikkei index plummeted by 7% in a week. As the losses grew, Leeson requested extra funds to continue trading, hoping to extricate himself from the mess by more deals. Leeson was counting that there would be a post quake rebound and the Nikkei would stabilise at 19,000. There were no hedges, no bets the other way to protect Barings' huge exposures. There was no rebound. Over three months he bought more than 20,000 futures contracts worth about $180,000 each in a vain attempt to move the market. Some three quarters of the $1.3 billion he lost Barrings resulted from these trades. When Barings executives discovered what had happened, they informed the Bank of England that Barings was effectively bust.

Two days before his 28th birthday Nicholas William Lesson went missing from Singapore, on his desk he left a hurriedly scribbled not saying "I'm Sorry." He guessed he would be jailed for the fraud and in the hope of being locked up in the UK rather than the Far East - the couple went on the run. He went first to an exclusive resort in Borneo and then to Frankfurt.

The worlds most wanted man, on the cover of every newspaper, checked in on his flight to Europe using his own name and hiding beneath a baseball cap. The German authorities were alerted and the police were there to greet Leeson as he touched down. On the news of Leeson's arrest, cheers erupted in the worlds futures markets.

In his wake he had wiped out the 233 year-old Baring investment Bank, who proudly counted the Queen as a client. The 1.3billion dollars of liabilities he had run up was more than the entire capital and reserves of the bank. Investors saw their savings wiped out and some 1,200 of Leeson's fellow employees lost their Jobs. Dutch bank ING agreed to assume nearly all of Barings' debt and acquired the bank for the princely sum of £1.

Who was to blame? Leeson definitely. He pleaded guilty to forging documents and misleading SIMEX, but as the dust settled from the Barrings collapse, the famous line from the Watergate prosecution was asked, 'What did the President know and when did he know it?' Although there is no doubt about Leeson's deeds, could senior bank officials not have known of the rogue trader's actions?

The Bank of England concluded in its report, that the hot-shot trader managed to pull the wool over his superiors eyes until it was too late to save the bank. It was certainly a fact that most of the old school really never understood or cared to master the complexities of derivatives trading.

But Barings could not totally escape blame. An internal memo dated in 1993 had warned the London headquarters about allowing Leeson to be both trader and settlement officer, "We are in danger of setting up a system that will prove disastrous." Nothing was done. In January 1995 SIMEX expressed concern to the bank about Leeson's dealings, but to no avail as the bank still wired him $1billion to continue his trading. A report by the Singapore authorities into the collapse regards with disbelief the protestations by Leeson's superiors, all of who were forced to resign or were sacked, that they knew nothing of error account 88888.

What became of Leeson? After his arrest in Germany he spent a few fraught months trying to escape extradition to Singapore. He failed and in December 1995 a court in Singapore sentenced him to six-and-a-half years after he pleaded guilty to two counts of deceiving the bank's auditors and of cheating the Singapore exchange. Having served nearly nine months in Germany awaiting extradition, his sentence was backdated to March 2nd, 1995.

In jail, he is said to have exercised vigorously, "found God" and spent his days walking up and down, pacing away the time.

The fortunes of Leeson's personal life also seemed to mirror the peaks and troughs of his career. As if in a soap story, his wife Lisa got a job as an air hostess to be able to visit him regularly. She even helped him write his book, 'Rogue Trader'. Their marriage at first survived the strain of being apart. But what Lisa could not abide were his revelations of his infidelity with Geisha girls, so she divorced him. Her remarriage, to another City trader, served to further knock his spirit and he grew very depressed at losing his once devoted wife. Within months, Leeson was diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the colon, the disease that had killed his mother. He had successful surgery whilst in prison. From being a partying, good-time youngster who could abuse his body with heavy drinking, he was reduced to a ghost of a man.

He was released early, in the summer of 1999 and his return to the UK brought a realisation that the high life had been swept away; he was effectively homeless and without a job. Yet Leeson has proved his resilience and has been able to capitalise on his experiences. He made an estimated £50,000 from his book and the fee for newspaper serialisation is reported to be about three times that amount.

When the story was turned into a film 'Rogue Trader' starring Ewan McGregor, Leeson was thought to have received a considerable sum from the proceeds. His notoriety has also made him hot property on the conference circuit where he makes considerable sums speaking about his experiences.

"I don't think of myself as a criminal" Leeson said before he was tried in Singapore, he has always claimed he made no personal gain from his trading and was merely trying to cover losses.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Fornication Under Consent of the King..

The word "fuck" is actually an acronym. It dates back to the Good Old Days, when England was severely underpopulated due to the usual combination of fire/war/plague, and the King issued an official order to... well, fuck, to replenish the population.

When anyone wanted to have a baby, they got consent of the King, the King gave them a placard that they hung on their door while they were having sex. The acronym for "Fornication Under Consent of the King was stamped on it... F.U.C.K.

Hence the phrase "Fornicate Under Command/ Consent of the King" passed into everyday language

---- A pig's orgasm can last up to 30 minutes.

---- In Lebanon, men are legally allowed to have sex with animals, but the Animals must be female. Having sexual relations with a male animal is punishable by death.

Taking the above three into consideration, reckon, any Lebanese guy based in England during the Middle Ages would definitely soutght out a pig or a female that resembled one ! No offense to anyone ... please..

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Christ Announces Hiring Of Associate Christ


Overwhelmed by a constant deluge of prayers and appeals for salvation, Jesus Christ announced Monday the hiring of Tacoma, WA, customer-service supervisor Dean Smoler as Associate Christ.

I've been in need of an Assistant Savior for a long time now, and I'm thrilled to finally have one," Christ told reporters at a press conference aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. "Dean is an experienced guy who will really help ease my workload."

For more details... CLICK HERE