Traders Behaving Badly: UBS "Rogue" Ranks Among Biggest Money-Losers

Last Updated Sep 15, 2011 2:16 PM EDT

News that a "rogue" trader in UBS's London office lost $2 billion of the banking giant's money was greeted with the usual shock. How did the person do it? Was the bank asleep at the wheel? Why does this keep happening? Natural questions all -- everyone likes a good caper -- and it will be interesting to see how Kweku Adoboli, a 31-year-old specialist in exchange-traded funds, allegedly pulled it off.

The case is another stain on UBS. The company had to be bailed out during the financial crisis, and its reputation has suffered in recent years after a string of scandals, including getting busted by the U.S. government for helping Americans dodge taxes. Asked one brokerage pro:
"How many times do we have to see huge UBS losses?" said Simon Maughan, head of sales and distribution at MF Global Ltd. in London. "It looks unreformed, unwieldy and ultimately unsustainable. This could be a critical tipping point for UBS's strategy."
But is surprise appropriate at this stage? The list of financial company employees who have defrauded their firms in recent years grows longer by the year. Given the size of the loss at UBS, it also seems clear the company had one doozy of a hole in its risk management systems. Indeed, another question that rarely gets answered in such cases is to what extent senior bank managers were at all responsible for the fraud.

As for why such incidents keep happening, greed seems a likely culprit, along with the intense pressure to perform facing traders at major banks. With that in mind, here's a look at five other traders gone rogue in recent years:

Thumbnail from Flickr user Twicepix via Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0
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  • Alain Sherter On Twitter»

    Alain Sherter is an award-winning business journalist who has written for The Deal, MarketWatch and Thomson Financial Media.

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