The Two-Way
12:47 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Report: Rogue UBS Trader Was The One Who Informed Bank Of $2bn Loss

Kweku Adoboli, the 31-year-old rogue trader who lost $2 billion of Swiss bank UBS' assets, was the one who alerted the bank to what was going on, reports the BBC.

To catch you up on the story: Yesterday, UBS announced that it may have to post a quarterly loss because one man made a series of bad trades. As the AP reported, yesterday, Adoboli proved that banks remain vulnerable even after safeguards against rogue traders were put in place.

What the BBC reports today is significant, because it means the bank didn't notice such major movement until it was confronted by the man causing it. The BBC reports:

The BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, says UBS's internal controls did not pick up the huge loss allegedly generated by its trader Kweku Adoboli. He says Mr Adoboli told UBS that he had engaged in unauthorised trades.

The Financial Services Authority, the City regulator, is investigating why UBS did not identify the transactions. After being alerted, UBS then examined Mr Adoboli's trading positions and informed the Financial Services Authority and the police.

Our correspondent says: "The disclosure that it was Mr Adoboli's decision to inform his colleagues of his actions that set alarm bells ringing at UBS, rather than its own monitoring system, will add to concerns that investment banks simply aren't capable of controlling the huge risks that their traders take."

Adobili was arraigned today in London. He was charged with fraud and two counts of false accounting. The Guardian reports that one of the charges dates back to 2008:

Two of the charges relate to exchange traded funds (ETF): first that he dishonestly falsified a record of an ETF between October 2008 and December 2009 with a view to personal gain or the intent to cause loss to another; the second is false accounting of an ETF between January 2010 and September 2011. The third charge is an allegation of fraud between January 2011 and September 2011.

What Adobili did exactly is still a mystery. UBS is expected to release details of it today.

But back to the safeguards: As this story unfolds, a name you'll hear a lot is Nick Leeson, who describes himself as the "original" rogue trader. His unchecked risk taking led to the collapse of Barings in 1995 and after a stint in jail, he's now a kind of spokesperson for rogue traders.

Leeson hasn't said much about this case, because he's traveling. But when someone on Twitter asked him if he was surprised that a rogue trader was still able to game new bank controls, Leeson answered wryly:

shocking jeff, financial innovation is all the banks care about, controls are for lesser mortals

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.