THE COLLAPSE OF BARINGS BANK, 1995
Indeed, the bank's pedigree was so distinguished that it did not have a logo, it had a crest. And yet, in order to survive in the late 20th century, Barings called on young, not necessarily upper-class go-getters who knew how to work the new instruments of global finance like derivatives. Among these hungry young climbers was Nick Leeson, the son of a council estates plasterer.
Starting in Barings' back office, he proved himself adept at understanding the derivatives market and soon found himself stationed in Singapore, betting on market shifts around the world. At one point, his speculations accounted for 10% of Barings profits. He was a star. But he also knew how to manipulate the internal system and created a secret Barings account whose losses the bank automatically covered. He started risking huge amounts of money on the Nikkei, betting that the Japanese stock market would go up. Instead it went crashing down with a gigantic earthquake in Kobe on Jan. 17, 1995. Leeson's losses mounted quickly until he realized they would swamp not only him but all of Barings. And indeed it did. They came to more than $1 billion, an amount the bank could not cover. It collapsed that March and was bought by the Dutch financial company ING for one British pound. Leeson fled but was extradited to Singapore where he served six and a half years for fraud. He is now the manager of a soccer team in Scotland.
***It's crazy to go back and read about something like this. Especially knowing that none of the banks who had a part in our financial crisis a few years ago will ever be prosecuted. The statute of limitations for fraud or federal offenses is only 5 years. This means they'll be getting away from their money laundering, securities fraud and interest-rate rigging schemes. To read more about Barings Bank, go here. Or to read more about our financial crisis, go here. Sources: Time, NYT, Wikipedia
TIME Magazine posted this article online several years ago, along with a list of 24 additional notorious crimes that I have been posting and will continue to post every Saturday on my blog. Hope you enjoy.
To read the previous 17 crimes - click my logo below.