Original rogue trader Leeson gives hope for Kerviel

5th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The tale of Nick Leeson, who brought down Britain's oldest bank in 1995, will hold out hope for fellow rogue trader Jerome Kerviel as the Frenchman begins a three-year jail sentence.

Leeson served four years in prison in Singapore after his 1.5 billion dollars of illicit trading forced the closure of Barings Bank -- but survived cancer and the collapse of his first marriage to rebuild his life.

The Londoner has even jokingly thanked Kerviel for helping his own post-jail career, saying after the case broke two years ago: "Jerome Kerviel has also brought back some prominence to my story and I thank him for that."

Leeson was not immediately contactable by telephone on Tuesday. A spokesman for his agents in Britain said Leeson would only give paid-for interviews.

But the Londoner has previously blamed a lack of oversight in the banking system for the fact that a decade and a half after his own case, Kerviel was able to cause an even bigger scandal at France's Societe Generale bank.

"It was always likely to happen," Leeson, who is now the boss of a football club in the west of Ireland, told AFP when Societe Generale first made its losses public in January 2008.

He said later that same year that he was surprised that Kerviel had been able to carry out the risky covert stock trades that eventually cost the French bank 4.9 billion euros (currently 6.8 billion dollars).

"I was probably more shocked than anybody that such an episode could have happened at such an organisation," Leeson said at a trading summit in Hong Kong in 2008, describing SocGen as "at the forefront" of derivatives trading.

In 1995 it was discovered that Londoner Leeson had run up trading losses of more than 850 million pounds (then over 1.5 billion dollars) when he worked as a trader in the Singapore office of Barings.

It equalled almost the entire assets of the bank, which was later bought for one pound by the Dutch banking and insurance group ING.

He went on the run but was brought back to Singapore to face trial and served four years in prison. While he was in prison he was diagnosed as suffering from colon cancer and his first marriage broke down.

But Kerviel may be able to take solace from Leeson's post-jail career, during which Leeson's official website says he has "proved his resilience and has been able to capitalise on his experiences."

Leeson wrote a best-seller, "Rogue Trader", which was made into a film starring Ewan McGregor and also gives after-dinner speeches and talks to companies on risk management, according to his website.

He has remarried, become a father and, most recently, become chief executive officer of Galway United football club.

© 2010 AFP

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