Critical ING threatens action

ING, the Dutch rescuer of Barings, vented frustration yesterday at the Bank of England's slowness in investigating the derivatives disaster alleged to have brought down the bank, and said it could be forced into unilateral action if the inquiry took much longer.

"Of course we are a little disappointed that it takes that long and of course we cannot wait too long," Aad Jacobs, chairman, said in Amsterdam yesterday.

The Bank of England report was initially scheduled for the end of April but is not now expected until early June. Mr Jacobs said he could not afford to wait much longer.

"Our employees and clients are asking for measures from our side. At a certain moment we have to take action."

Asked how much longer the present uncertainty could last, he said: "I can hardly imagine that it will take another month."

Hessel Lindenbergh, the ING director now in charge of Barings, is keen to launch a new business plan for the merchant bank, according to sources, and this means first sacking those directors most closely identified with supervision of Nick Leeson, the derivatives trader.

Among names in the spotlight are Peter Norris, former head of Barings securities, and Ronald Baker, head of the financial products group and Mr Leeson's direct London superior.

Others thought vulnerable by City sources include Geoffrey Barnett, chief operating officer, and George Maclean, head of banking.

Uncertainty over which of the Barings' staff will go in the expected reorganisation is hurting morale at the firm and undermining client confidence, bankers have said.

ING wants to wait for the official report and has so far resisted calls to fire those who were involved in the disaster that cost Barings' independence.

The Dutch bank accepted the resignations of Barings' chairman, Peter Baring, and deputy Andrew Tuckey on 3 April. Mr Jacobs said he did not know if others planned to quit.

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