Former Barings chiefs in legal split

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The Independent Online

A split has emerged among former directors of Barings who resigned earlier this year and are fighting suspension by the Securities and Futures Authority.

Most of the former directors, including Peter Norris, the former chief executive, instructed City law firm Stephenson Harwood to look after their interests as the SFA probed their involvement in the collapse.

However, at least two former directors have been forced to go to different lawyers after it emerged in interviews with Stephenson Harwood that their accounts were in conflict with those of former colleagues.

One is Ian Hopkins, former head of Barings group treasury and risk, who was removed from the group's management committee a week before the bank collapsed. He is being represented by Memery Crystal, a London law firm also acting for depositors in the case of BCCI, another collapsed bank.

Harvey Rands, a partner at the firm, confirmed he was acting for Mr Hopkins but said he could make no further comment.

According to the Board of Banking Supervision's report into the Barings collapse, Mr Hopkins' removal from the management committee came eight days after he wrote a memorandum for the committee about what was understood to be an incorrect pounds 50m payment made by one arm of Barings to another.

"Although our principal was probably never at serious risk," he wrote, "the episode has brought to a head the need to build a proper operational infrastructure in the Singapore futures operation, and particularly to devolve settlement responsibility from Nick Leeson." The report says Mr Hopkins was removed from the management committee on 21 February this year by Andrew Tuckey, the former deputy chairman, and Mr Norris. The report says Mr Hopkins was given no reason for his removal.

At the last meeting of the bank's assets and liability committee, on 23 February, Mr Hopkins reported a $100m margin requirement from Barings Singapore. "Details of reason for the requirement were dueat the next meeting, which was overtaken by the collapse," says the Bobs report.