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The Almighty Buck Crime

UBS Rogue Trader Loses $2 Billion In Unauthorized Trades 360

Posted by timothy
from the let's-give-it-to-a-nice-fiscally-responsible-government dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes with this snippet from Reuters that sounds like a ready-made movie script: "Switzerland's UBS said on Thursday it had discovered unauthorized trading by a trader in its investment bank had caused a loss of some $2 billion. 'The matter is still being investigated, but UBS's current estimate of the loss on the trades is in the range of $2 billion,' the bank said in a brief statement just before the stock market opened." Asks the RanchKid: "I wonder how this will reopen the debate about the role of computer systems in the trading and the safeguards that are supposed to protect against these risks. But if microseconds mean millions in trading ... who has time for checks?"
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UBS Rogue Trader Loses $2 Billion In Unauthorized Trades

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  • Not so surprising (Score:4, Informative)

    by LordNacho (1909280) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @01:52PM (#37411988)

    First of all, he'd worked in the back office, so he'd know both people and procedures.

    Second of all, anyone who's ever worked in finance can tell you big banks are chaotic. It's not really that strange that he can go about his business undetected for a while, because there's loads of traders with loads of portfolios. And most people on one desk are not going to be experts on the business of another. UBS has had a number of restructurings since the financial crisis. People are moved on, some desks are closed, some are merged, it's gonna be a mess. Makes it easier to hide.

    Third, risk officers are not what you think. They are not the internal police, vigilantly keeping an eye out for every possible transgression. They look at the positions, calculate the risk (big can of worms, don't ask), and when someone is over their limit, they show up at the trader's desk and are told to fuck off.

    Finally, it is not at all clear that technology played an important role in this fraud. Yes, some HFT market makers trade ETFs, but it's not clear his desk was. That doesn't mean a software error caused it, or that the fraud could not have occurred without whatever system he was using. From efinancial (which you need a subscription to read) the latest rumour is that he messed up a hedge in EURCHF, and his attempt to fix it made it worse.

A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.

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