Dublin: Nick Leeson, the rogue trader whose wrong-way bets on Japanese stocks ruined Britain’s oldest merchant bank, said he may go back to trading full-time with only his own money at stake.
Leeson said he trades “when I get the time” and has been buying and selling currencies for the past few months. He is considering “watching screens” for a living when he decides to leave his current job as commercial director of Irish soccer team Galway United FC.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people have asked me to manage their money,” Leeson, 40, said in an interview in Galway, on Ireland’s west coast on 2 March. “If I make a decision and lose money, fair enough. If I make a decision for somebody else, then I would feel obligated to make it up to them.”
The Englishman amassed losses of $1.4 billion as Barings Plc’s former head trader in Singapore in 1995. The London-based bank collapsed and its assets were eventually sold to ING Groep NV of the Netherlands for 1 pound ($1.95). Barings, whose clients included Queen Elizabeth II, had financed Britain’s campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte between 1804 and 1815 and helped fund Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
From 1992 to 1995, Leeson conducted illegal trades and hid losses on clients’ accounts. He lost 3.6 million pounds by October 1992, a total that jumped to 164 million pounds by the end of 1994, according to a UK High Court case in 2003 into whether Barings’ auditors were negligent.
Leeson, who grew up in the London suburb of Watford, says he’d now never risk more than he could afford to lose, and closes out his position every day. Under UK regulations, Leeson is free to trade on his own account. He’d have to seek registration to join a bank, which he said he wouldn’t “dream” of doing.
“Years ago I was extremely ill-disciplined,” said Leeson, whose primary source of income is now making after-dinner and conference speeches for as much as 10,000 pounds a time. “My experience over that period and since would be to make sure that I get myself correctly disciplined.”
His losses -- linked mainly to Japanese stock-index futures -- soared in January 1995 when the Kobe earthquake sent the market into a tailspin. During the next month, Barings wired millions of dollars to help Leeson pay margin calls on his positions. He ran out of money and fled Singapore.