Two top men at Barings resign

Peter Baring and Andrew Tuckey, chairman and deputy chairman of Barings, resigned yesterday, assuming formal responsibility for failing to spot the disastrous derivatives speculation that bust Britain's oldest merchant bank in February.

They are the first departures since Barings was bought by ING, the Dutch bank, but more senior executives are expected to leave once the Bank of England has completed its investigation into the events leading up to the bank's collapse.

Confidential internal documents handed to the investigators and acquired by the Independent reveal failures by senior management to act on concerns about the derivatives speculation of Nick Leeson in Barings' Singapore office. The documents reveal that worries about insufficient trading details were raised frequently but never acted on. Concerns were relayed to all levels of Barings managment, with executives sent to Singapore to investigate, but there was never a considered response until it was too late.

Reports were commissioned, and in effect ignored, as were internal auditors' calls made as far back as August 1994 for an immediate change in Mr Leeson's responsibilities in Singapore.

As well as the Bank of England investigation, inquiries are being conducted by the Securities and Futures Authority and the Serious Fraud Squad.

ING has previously said it would not push for resignations, but would await completion of the inquiries. Peter Baring and Andrew Tuckey had offered their resignations to ING on the day the Dutch took over, but were asked to stay on to smooth the handover. The two men apparently insisted on being able to depart at the first opportunity as a matter of honour.

While Mr Baring, aged 59, is expected to retire from the City, Mr Tuckey, aged 51, who once harboured ambitions of high office, even at the Bank of England, is believed to be interested in a return to Barings should his name be cleared. Hessel Lindebergh, an ING director now in charge of Barings, said: "We accept fully that they have made their decision on the basis of honour and principle."

Mr Baring and Mr Tuckey said in a joint statement: "With the new owners of Barings and with the individual businesses in the group returning to normal, ING and we have agreed that the time has come for us to resign. We have spent most of our professional lives with Barings and we view with great sadness and regret the events of recent weeks."

The Bank of England's investigation, the fact-gathering part of which is expected to be completed next month, is focusing on the extensive failure of controls that enabled Mr Leeson to build up undetected his massive derivatives speculation, which led to losses of around £850m.

A number of former senior executives, including those directly responsible in London for Mr Leeson, and some on Baring's special group committee for assessing risk, have not been appointed to the management of the new Barings by the Dutch owners. These people are no longer involved in the daily business, and are helping the authorities with their inquiries.

The main individuals involved are Peter Norris, the former head of Barings Securities; Ronald Baker, the head of the financial products group and Mr Leeson's direct London boss; Tony Hawes, the group treasurer; Ian Hopkins, the head of group control; and Geoffrey Broadhurst, finance director of Barings Securities.

Comment, page 25

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