SFA hands Barings pair virtual blackballing

NIC CICUTTI

The Securities and Futures Authority yesterday came close to a City blackballing of Peter Baring, the chairman of Barings, and Andrew Tuckey, his deputy, for their stewardship of the collapsed bank.

The regulator officially cleared Mr Baring and Mr Tuckey of responsibility for the collapse of the 233-year-old bank. Nevertheless, both men were required to give the SFA "assurances ... regarding the future". Mr Baring, who is aged 60, has told the SFA that he does not intend to re-enter the investment industry.

Mr Tuckey, aged 54, told the SFA he will not be seeking a position with an investment house that would require him to be registered with the watchdog as a senior executive or a director.

He will be allowed to continue in his current role as a corporate finance adviser. Since last year, Mr Tuckey's advisory work has brought him back to Barings, where he has been employed as a consultant reportedly earning more than pounds 100,000 for his advice.

Richard Farrant, the SFA's chief executive, said that he had no objection to Mr Tuckey remaining at Barings, where he has helped the bank in its advisory role over the Lloyds Bank takeover of TSB Group.

"This is consistent with the undertaking he has given us," Mr Farrant said. "This is that if he wanted to be a director and it is exclusively in the field of corporate finance, he is welcome to apply to us. But he has indicated that he does not wish it to be in a wider capacity."

The SFA said: "By reasons of the positions they held, they were associated with the failure to detect and prevent the losses, and recognising this, both resigned from the board in April 1995, expressing their deep regrets."

A number of other former executives at Barings were yesterday facing disciplinary action by the Securities and Futures Authority, their regulator, for their part in the merchant bank's collapse.

The SFA said yesterday that the individuals concerned, which it refused to name, were being held responsible for the collapse. If found guilty, they risk being barred from ever working in the securities industry again.

Another individual known to have been cleared is Geoffrey Barnett, the former chief operating officer at the bank.

Barings was brought down in February last year by losses of some pounds 860m run up by the rogue trader Nick Leeson in the high-risk derivatives market in Singapore. Leeson fled Singapore as the losses were discovered and surfaced in Frankfurt, Germany, several weeks later.

After fighting a bitter battle against deportation, he was returned to Singapore. He is now serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence in the state's Changi prison after admitting two counts of cheating.

Barings was rescued last spring by the Dutch banking group ING, which paid pounds 1 for control of the bank in return for shouldering the losses.

In April last year, 20 key Barings staff based in Singapore, Tokyo and London left the company. They included Ron Baker, head of the financial products group; Tony Gamby, head of settlements; Peter Norris, former head of securities; Geoffrey Broadhurst, finance director, and Brenda Granger, head of futures and options settlements, all based in London.

In Singapore, James Bax, regional manager for South-east Asia; Simon Jones, regional operations manager, and Rachel Young, financial controller, also resigned.

Several of them were among those investigated by the SFA. Mr Farrant yesterday declined to say which ones or whether any of them had been cleared.

Mr George MacLean, the former head of the bank group, said yesterday: "I have received a bundle of papers which I have still not had time to examine fully. Until that time I am unable to comment."

An ING Barings spokeswoman said yesterday: "[We] are pleased that the SFA has reached the conclusion of their investigations into a number of current and former employees. The SFA is not currently considering any enforcement action against any person currently employed by ING Barings."

She defended the continued presence at the bank of Mr Tuckey. "He has no directorial or executive capacity and it is the case with any consultant that they make their recommendations and a director or executive takes a decision based on the recommendations."

Reports by the Bank of England and the Singaporean authorities last year both pointed the finger at his bosses for allowing him to break the bank.

Comment, page 23

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