The Collapse Of Barings Bank Essay Research

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The Collapse Of Barings Bank Essay, Research Paper THE COLLAPSE OF BARINGS BANK GROUP IV This story begins with a former back office clerk being promoted to a derivatives trader for Barings Bank?s Singapore Branch and ends with the collapse of a 232-year old banking empire. As we began researching this assignment, we all asked the same question, ?How does a 28 year old trader bring about the collapse of a 232-year old banking empire?? To understand how this debacle came about, one must have a basic understanding of the nature of a derivative and what they are designed to do. Initially, derivatives were designed to provide an investor/trader with a type of insurance against unexpected movements in prices which could devastate an investment portfolio. These derivatives take the

form of futures and options: A future is an agreement for the future delivery of a certain commodity/ financial instrument at a price set at the time of the contract. An option gives the purchaser the right, but not the obligation, to buy/sell a certain quantity of a specific asset at a fixed price at, or before, a future date. In this instance, Nick Leeson, a 28 year old trader at Barings Bank, made a bet that the Nikkei 225 would not drop below 19,000. During the morning of January 17, 1995, the city of Kobe, Japan was hit with a major earthquake. As a result, the Nikkei 225 plunged 7% in a week. Unbeknownst to senior management, Lesson had no hedge to protect the bank against an unexpected event such as this. The losses resulting from these transactions resulted in the loss of

almost a billion dollars and wiped out the capital of Barings Bank. This event occurred through a mixture of corporate greed and a lack of internal controls. One of the most unusual aspects of this case was the fact that Barings Bank allowed Nick Leeson to settle his own trades. At most banks, trading and settlement are handled by two people. Allowing one person to handle both sides of the transaction was a recipe for disaster: an unscrupulous trader, such as Leeson, has a way to hide the risks he was taking and/or the money he was losing. This lack of control provided Leeson with the opportunity to undertake unauthorized trading and reduce the likelihood of its detection. Although there were few internal controls monitoring Leeson?s activities, a number of warning signs were

present which, had they been properly addressed, should have enabled Barings to detect the unauthorized activities and the losses that they were generating. These warnings signs were ignored because individuals in a number of different departments failed to face up to, or follow up on, identified problems. Also, due to inadequate communication between departments and the individuals within them, many of Leeson?s supervisors failed to act or ignored the irregularities in his trading activities. Had these managers acted upon information readily available to them (through internal audits and irregularities in trading activities), the collapse of Barings Bank may have been prevented. Our group saw a number of areas which contributed to the enabling of Nick Leeson and which Barings

could have acted to prevent Leeson?s unauthorized trading: Internal problem #1 Lack of segregation of Leeson’s duties: The fact that Leeson was permitted throughout to remain in charge of both front office and back office at BFS was a most serious failing. In any internal control system, adequate separation of duties is essential. Duties of individuals that deal with financial instruments should be clearly defined and no individual should be assigned incompatible duties. (The more tasks done by one individual, the greater the opportunity for errors and dishonesty. Internal problem #2 Supervision of BFS: Leeson?s immediate supervisor, a Director of BFS, failed to implement the suggestions of a company internal audit which recommended a separation of duties. Also, the Director of