`Goodbye to bloody nice bonuses'

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The collapse of Barings has deprived hundreds of employees of an annual bonus which in some cases would have doubled basic salaries.

The bonuses were to have been paid yesterday. "I had a bloody nice little bonus lined up and it lasted 40 minutes," one executive said. "Someone's going to pay for this."

Barings was on the verge of announcing record profits of more than £100m when Nick Leeson's derivatives losses came to light. A substantial proportion of these profits, which would have meant bumper bonuses for many staff, were contributed by the Singapore operation that sank the bank.

Mr Leeson has been boasting in recent weeks to other traders on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange that the five dealers under his control would be getting bonuses worth 36 months' money. His own bonus would be worth about £1m, he boasted.

An internal inquiry was launched at Barings in London yesterday into who knew what and when. "It's a real witchhunt," said one source."There is a lot of anger here. People want to find those who are to blame and string them up."

Barings was one of the few investment banks planning to pay signficant bonuses this year. Bonuses at Goldman Sachs and Salomons, two of the biggest payers last year, have been slashed after disastrous trading.

A leading recruitment agency was yesterday distributing leaflets to Barings employees as they left the bank's head office on Bishopsgate in the City.

Administrators know they must move fast in selling off the bank's various businesses if they are to realise significant value.

"There is a real danger of the business just slipping away as the best people are poached by competitors", said one commentator. "Nobody wants to do business with a bust bank".