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Is Your Business Harboring Rogues?

What happens when people in power go off half-cocked

August 28, 2012 By Denny Hatch
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Do you sometimes wonder if strange goings-on in the next office or on an upper floor by hotshots—who in reality don't know squat—could bring down your business?

I find astonishing the number of rogues who make decisions not knowing the rules, not understanding their business model and, worse, worse, worse, not testing small.

Instead—convinced they know it all—they roll out big. When things don't go their way, they double-down. And everybody gets clobbered—fellow employees, stockholders and the public.

1. Nick Leeson and the Barings Bank Disaster
From "Nick Leeson: The Real Rogue Trader, A Timeline in Quotes”:

Barings Plc, the 233-year-old British investment bank [and personal bank to HM The Queen] that helped finance the Napoleonic wars and the Louisiana purchase, is broke after one of its Singapore traders lost more than $1 billion.

The trader, Nick Leeson, got in over his head with "massive unauthorized" trades including an exotic bet called a "short straddle." He fled Singapore to Kuala Lumpur where he checked into the 5-star Regency Hotel with his wife Lisa. After an international manhunt, Leeson was picked up in the Frankfurt Airport and wound up spending four years in what he called "a gang-ridden Singaporean jail, in conditions that defy belief."

On Leeson's website he glories in calling himself "the original Rogue Trader whose unchecked risk-taking caused the biggest financial scandal of the 20th century" and reports that he "continues to be in-demand around the world for conference and after-dinner speaking."

In 1995, after much gnashing of teeth and wailing in the streets, Barings was sold to ING for £1. In 2004, ING sold Barings to Mass Mutual and Northern Trust.

2. The Geeks in the Back Room, Dick Fuld and the Crash of Lehman
I have two good friends who worked at Lehman Brothers, 158 years old and Wall Street's fourth largest investment bank with $640 billion in assets.

My friends showed up for work on Monday, Sept. 15, 2008 and discovered the company was bankrupt. Along with 25,000 employees worldwide they were not only out of work, but also their stock and retirement savings were dust.


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