ING axe falls on Barings chiefs

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The Independent Online

The long-awaited bloodbath among senior executives at Barings occurs today.

ING, the new Dutch owners, are expected to announced the departure of some 20 people from Barings' offices in London, Singapore and Tokyo, deemed to have been responsible for the failure of controls that let Nick Leeson break the bank with his ruinous derivative speculation.

ING hopes most of the executives will do the honourable thing and resign, following the example of Peter Baring and Andrew Tuckey, the former chairman and chief executive, who left in early April. "For the sake of the business and our clients, we have to be able to say anyone with responsibility for the Far Eastern disaster has gone," said a source close to ING.

The dismissals have been discussed with the Bank of England, which is conducting a semi-judicial investigation into the events leading up to the collapse of Barings in late February under nearly £900m of losses. Sources said the departures were no indicator of involvement in the fraud of which Nick Leeson stands accused, but rather a general cleansing of all those with responsibility for the Singapore trader's operations.

The most prominent victim is expected to be Peter Norris, 40, former head of Barings Securities, who was pointedly given only an advisory role in the new management structure.

Ronald Baker was Nick Leeson's direct boss in London, as head of Barings' financial products group. He was recruited from Bankers Trust for his expertise in derivatives trading. One of his deputies, Mary Walz, responsible for the South-East Asia region, has also not been actively involved in Barings' management since March.

Some members of Barings' central risk control body have already been sidelined, including Tony Hawes, former group treasurer; Ian Hopkins, previously head of group risk control; and Geoffrey Broadhurst, who was finance director of Barings Securities before the crash.

Senior managers of Barings' Singapore operations, where Nick Leeson worked, are also expected to go. They include James Bax, the former managing director - whose passport was seized by the authorities in Singapore - and his deputy, Simon Jones.

Question marks hang over the fate of two more top Barings executives: George Maclean, head of banking since 1986, and Geoffrey Barnett, the chief administration man. A key survivor is Richard Katz, head of equity trading at Barings Securities.

Resignations and dismissal may not spell the end of the problems for some of those involved. Individuals found to have been grossly incompetent by the Bank of England enquiry (which should be completed by late May or early June) may be banned from working in the City.

ING insiders said the sackings were essential to restore confidence in Barings Securities, which has been under pressure from big clients in the US and Britain not bringing new business until the situation is clarified. Barings corporate finance and asset management operations, by contrast, are said to have emerged well from the traumas, and have been winning new mandates.