Barings Bank's activities in Singapore between 1992 and 1995 enabled Nick Leeson to operate effectively without supervision from Barings Bank in London. Leeson acted both as head of settlement operations (charged with ensuring accurate accounting) and as floor manager for Barings' trading on Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX), though the positions would normally have been held by two employees. This placed Leeson in the position of reporting to an office inside Barings Bank which he himself held. Several observers (and Leeson himself) have placed much of the blame on the bank's own deficient internal auditing and risk management practices.
Because of the absence of oversight, Leeson was able to make seemingly small gambles in the futures market and cover for his shortfalls by reporting losses as gains to Barings in London. Specifically, Leeson altered the branch's error account, subsequently known by its account number 88888 as the "five-eight account", to prevent the London office from receiving the standard daily reports on trading, price, and status. Leeson claims the losses started when one of his colleagues bought contracts when she should have sold them
Using the hidden "five-eight account," Leeson began to aggressively trade in futures and options on SIMEX. His decisions routinely lost substantial sums, but he used money entrusted to the bank by subsidiaries for use in their own accounts. He falsifed trading records in the bank's computer systems, and used money intended for margin payments on other trading.
Barings Bank management in London at first congratulated and rewarded Leeson for what seemed to be his outstanding trading profits. However, his luck ran out when the Kobe earthquake sent the Asian financial markets into a tailspin. Leeson bet on a rapid recovery by the Nikkei Stock Average which failed to materialize.
By this time, Barings Bank auditors finally discovered the fraud, around... [continues]
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