Case Study Barings
Summary: One of the most infamous tales of financial demise is that of Barings Bank. Trader Nick Leeson was supposed to be exploiting low-risk arbitrage opportunities that would leverage price low rage differences in similar equity derivatives on the Singapore Money Exchange (Simex) and the Osaka exchange. In fact, he was taking much riskier positions by buying and selling different amounts of the contracts on the two exchanges or buying and selling contracts of different types. Thanks to the lax attitude of senior management, Leeson was given control over both the trading and back office functions. As Leeson's losses mounted, he increased his bets. However, after an earthquake in Japan after caused the Nikkei Index to drop sharply, the losses increased rapidly, with Leeson's positions going more than $1 billion into the red. This was too much for the bank to sustain; in March of 1995, it was purchased by the Dutch b bank ING for just one pound sterling. Overview: Barings Bank had a long history of success and was much respected as the UK's oldest d merchant bank. But in February of 1995, this highly regarded bank, with $900 million in capital, was bankrupted by $1 billion of unauthorised trading losses. In 1993, Nick Leeson was appointed general manager of the bank's Barings Futures subsidiary appointed in Singapore. In this capacity, he was able to conceal his unauthorised trading activities for over a year because he managed both the trading and back office functions. The senior managers at a Barings came primarily from a merchant banking background and knew very little about trading. Even in the face of large profits, which should have tipped management off to the fact that substantial risks were being taken, they continued to believe that Leeson held matched Leeson positions on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (Simex) and the Osaka exchange, and hence was making a low-risk profit. low In fact, Leeson was trading derivatives contracts on the two exchanges that were, in some cases, of different types and, in some cases, in mismatched amounts. For example, Leeson rent executed a trading strategy known as a "straddle," with the objective of making a profit by selling put and call options on the same underlying financial instrument, in this case, the Nikkei th 225 Index. A straddle will generally produce positive earnings when markets are stable but can result in large losses if markets are volatile. Leeson created an error account numbered 88888 as a holding area for any premiums or losses that he made. Leeson claims that he initially opened the account to conceal a single loss of e. 20,000 pounds sterling that had resulted from an accounting error until he could make up the difference through trading. However, he continued booking various losses into the account and also continued to increase his volume of trading and level of risk taking. Leeson took unauthorized speculative positions primarily in futures linked to the Nikkei 225 and Japanese government bonds (JGB) as well as options on the Nikkei. He hid his trading in an unused BSS error account, number 88888. Exactly why Leeson was speculating is unclear. He
claims that he originally used the 88888 account to hide some embarrassing losses resulting from mistakes made by his traders. However, Leeson started actively trading in the 88888 account almost as soon as he arrived in Singapore. The sheer volume of his trading suggests a simple desire to speculate. He lost money from the beginning. Increasing his bets only made him lose more money. By the end of 1992, the 88888 account was under water by about GBP 2 million. A year later, this had mushroomed to GBP 23 million. By the end of 1994, Leeson's 88888 account had lost a total of GBP 208 million. Barings management remained blithely unaware. On February 23, 1995, Nick Leeson hopped on a plane to Kuala Lumpur leaving behind a GBP 827 million hole in the Barings balance sheet. As a...
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