Rogue trader

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A rogue trader is an employee authorized to make trades on behalf of their employer (subject to certain conditions) who makes unauthorized trades. It is most often applied to financial trading, when rogue professional traders make unapproved financial transactions.[1]

This activity is often in the grey area between civil and criminal transgression, because the perpetrator is a legitimate employee of a company or institution, yet enters into transactions on behalf of their employer without permission.

External audio
What a Rogue Trader Learned From the Financial Crisis, Alexis Stenfors interviewed by [email protected], 24:35, July 18, 2017. Includes edited transcript.[2]

In several cases traders have initially made very large profits for their employers, and bonuses for themselves, from trades in breach of the rules, and it has widely been said that employers turned a blind eye to transgressions due to the profits involved.[3][4]

One famous rogue trader is Nick Leeson, whose losses on unauthorized investments in index futures contracts were sufficient to bankrupt his employer Barings Bank in 1995. Through a combination of poor judgement on his part, increasingly large initial profits, lack of oversight by management, a naïve regulatory environment, and an unforeseen outside event, the Kobe earthquake, Leeson incurred a US$1.3 billion loss that bankrupted the centuries-old financial institution.

The key factor determining the use of the term is lack of authorisation. There have been colossal financial losses and bankruptcies from what are considered to be catastrophically bad decisions by senior decision-makers in financial institutions, such as the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers which necessitated the 2008 United Kingdom bank rescue package, but this is not described as rogue trading and is not punishable.

In the UK the term is also used to describe dishonest tradesmen such as double-glazing salesmen, second-hand car dealers, gas fitters, mechanics, roofers, plumbers and domestic rubbish collectors. A BBC Television programme exposing such practices was called Watchdog, which was later followed by Rogue Traders.

Largest rogue-trader losses[edit]

Name Country Date(s) Loss Institution Market activity Sentence
Jérôme Kerviel[5] Paris, France 2006–2008 $6.9 billion (€4.9 billion) Société Générale European Stock Index Futures 5 years prison of which 2 years are suspended, pending appeal
Yasuo Hamanaka[5] Tokyo, Japan 1996 $2.6 billion Sumitomo Corporation Copper 8 years prison
Kweku Adoboli[6] London, United Kingdom[7] 2011 $2.3 billion UBS S&P 500, DAX, and EuroStoxx Futures 7 years in prison
Nick Leeson[5] United Kingdom 1995 $1.3 billion (£827 million) Barings Bank Nikkei Index Futures 6.5 years prison
Toshihide Iguchi[5] Osaka, Japan / New York City, United States 1995 $1.1 billion Resona Holdings U.S. Treasury Bonds 4 years prison
John Rusnak[5] Maryland, United States 2002 $691 million Allied Irish Banks Foreign Exchange Options 7.5 years prison
Chen Jiulin Singapore 2005 $550 million China Aviation Oil Jet Fuel Futures 4 years and 3 months prison
David Bullen
Luke Duffy
Vince Ficarra
Gianni Gray
Melbourne, Australia 2003–2004 $187 million (A$360 million) National Australia Bank Foreign Exchange Options 3 years and 8 months prison
2 years and 5 months prison
2 years and 4 months prison
16 months prison
Matthew Taylor[8] United States 2007 $118 million Goldman Sachs S&P 500 e-mini Futures 9 Months Prison[9]
Joseph Jett United States 1994 $74.6 million Kidder, Peabody & Co US Treasury bonds. banishing trading securities

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ball, Deborah; Sonne, Paul; Mollenkamp, Carrick (September 16, 2011). "UBS: Rogue Trader Hit Firm". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  2. ^ "What a Rogue Trader Learned From the Financial Crisis". Wharton School of Business. July 18, 2017. Retrieved July 21, 2017. Audio with edited transcript
  3. ^ "Nick Leeson: biography part I". 2011-03-01. Retrieved 2012-02-23. Nick Leeson's trades initially generated 10% of Barings' annual profit
  4. ^ "Le trader livre sa version de l'affaire Société Générale". Le Monde, paper version. 29 January 2008. p. 1. Jérôme Kerviel said that his trading behavior was widespread at the company and that getting a profit makes the hierarchy turn a blind eye
  5. ^ a b c d e Slater, Steve (September 15, 2011). "Factbox - UBS trader joins rogues' gallery of financial crime". Retrieved 2011-09-15.
  6. ^ "The curse of delta one strikes UBS". Financial Times. September 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-15.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Rogue trader should pay $118 million to Goldman Sachs: US". December 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  9. ^