The prestigious Barings Bank was the oldest merchant bank in Britain, founded in 1762, but it was brought down in 1995 due to the actions of one rogue trader named Nick Leeson who lost a fortune whilst trading speculatively and then succeeding in hiding the losses from his bosses and instead reporting substantial profits. The events were famously portrayed in 1999 British film Rogue Trader, with Ewan McGregor portraying Leeson.
Initially Leeson was highly successful making unauthorized for Barings, making £10 million in real profit in his first year which accounted for 10% of the banks overall profit. But his luck soon ran out and in 1992 he made increasingly desperate attempts to cover his losses whilst using an error account to disguise his losses. By the end of 1994 Leeson had accrued losses of £208 million. In early 1995 he would flee Singapore, where he was based, leaving a note saying “I’m sorry”. It would transpire that the total losses left by Leeson were £827m, twice the amount of Barings available trading capital and enough to send the business into liquidation.
£830,000,000 – Nick Leeson and the Fall of the House of Barings is a 1996 BBC documentary which tells the story of how Leeson had managed to bring down the bank, and the operational failures which had allowed Leeson to operate without the scrutiny of his bosses. Leeson would later be played by Ewan McGregor in the movie Rogue Trader.
Nick Leeson wrote the candid autobiographical book Rogue Trader in which he told his version of the story, it was this book which the movie of the same name was based on. It is available to purchase in paperback, hardback, and kindle editions and has received consistently excellent reviews.