Ex-bosses at Barings face exile

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The Independent Online
THE BANK OF ENGLAND is set to deem Barings' former top managers "not fit and proper" to work in the banking industry, should they ever apply for positions again.

In an unfinished twist to the tale of the bank's pounds 860m collapse in February, bank sources have indicated that provisions of the 1987 Banking Act will be stringently applied should the situation arise.

Last week, Singapore's long-awaited report pulled no punches in slating Barings' managers for remitting pounds 760m - more than its entire capital - to fund losses from Nick Leeson's unauthorised futures and options dealing.

Former investment banking head, Peter Norris, and Leeson's immediate boss, James Bax, may also face criminal charges after Singapore investigators accused both of a cover-up.

Far harsher than July's UK Board of Banking Supervision report, it censured key Barings staff for being "grossly negligent or wilfully blind and reckless to the truth".

"The basic criteria relate to integrity and skill. Clearly negligence and incompetence are of interest," one Bank of England source said. "If we get an application, there'll be a formal consideration, and we'll tell the company if we're not minded to consider the individual fit and proper," he added.

The Securities and Futures Association (SFA) is still investigating 12 Barings staff, including the former chairman, Peter Baring, and the deputy chairman, Andrew Tuckey, who both resigned after the rescue of the merchant bank by the Dutch bank, ING.

The probe will take until at least spring next year, and expulsion would disbar them from the securities industry. It is unclear whether the Department of Trade and Industry is considering disqualifications from company directorships.

Meanwhile, the Serious Fraud Office said its investigation was still open, but it had found no evidence of a cover-up in the UK.

The Singapore report was especially scathing about Barings' key Asset and Liability Committee (Alco), which failed to stop funding for Leeson despite warning signals.

Of Alco's eight members at the collapse, only one - the then head of equity trading, Richard Katz - is still employed by ING.