Dismissals being considered

ING, the new Dutch parent of Barings, is considering sacking managers it holds responsible for the collapse, without waiting for the Bank of England to complete its inquiry. The dismissals could come at the end of this month.

Hessel Lindenbergh, an ING main board member, said that Barings executives should be regarded as innocent until proved guilty "but you cannot wait for six months to see who is guilty."

Mr Ron Baker, head of the former financial products group under which Nick Leeson's trading unit came, appears to be top of the list of those likely to go.

"It is my firm belief that maybe he was not actively involved, but the first line responsibility was within his group," Mr Lindenbergh told the Financial Times. Replying to the suggestion that Mr Baker will leave, he said: "I am afraid so."

Bank investigators are interviewing at least 20 other former Barings executives, and Mr Lindenbergh is reportedly dismayed at predictions that their first report will not be available until the end of May. He is pressing for an initial summary later this month, but with or without the Bank's help, ING must decide who goes and who stays - because clients are unsettled by the uncertainty.

"Outsiders are asking our staff in a direct way: `Are you going to be here a few weeks from now? Are you on the list?'

"Preferably it will be the smallest group possible, but we have got to make it clear to our staff and customers that the people with Barings today will be there for years to come."

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