James Moore: If rogue traders pull it off…
Outlook What would have happened if Kweku Adoboli's bets had been winners?
The UBS rogue trader was yesterday sentenced to seven years in prison, which in reality means two and a half because he's served a year on remand.
Not a bad result considering he came within a couple of bets, sorry trades, of breaking Switzerland's oldest and grandest bank. Well, he did wear a nice suit to court. And his collar was white.
If Adoboli's bets had worked out, however, it's fair to assume he'd still be wearing that suit rather than the prison uniform he put on this morning. He might have even been wearing a better one.
Instead of reporting a thumping loss, UBS would have surprised the analysts by unveiling a better-than-expected profit. It would have been the toast of the City, and of Wall Street. Thousands of bankers axed as part of a retreat from gambling, sorry, investment banking, might have still been in their jobs rather than cosseted with their headhunters, and maybe their employment lawyers.
Among their number would have been Oswald Grübel, the former chief executive who resigned as a result of Adoboli's activities.
If the latter's bets had paid off he would have been lionised. As the result of a fraud.
How many other Kweku Adobolis are there out there who broke the rules but got lucky? How many times has a bank reported better-than-expected earnings that were as a result of a rogue trader who pulled it off?
This is a question that needs answering. There may be a Kweku Adoboli out there right now. Maybe he's getting lucky. Lucky us, then, if he works at a bank we'd carry the can for if things went wrong.
If ever Sir John Vickers needed to point to something as justification for his recommendation that retail depositers need a ringfence to protect them, he's surely got it now.
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