UBS Trader Charged with Fraud Related to $2B Trading Loss

Kweku Adoboli, a UBS trader, has been charged with false accounting and fraud allegedly resulting in about $2 billion in losses. Adoboli, 31, was arrested in London.

The alleged financial misconduct is said to have taken place between 10/8 and 12/09 and 1/10 and 9/11 while Adoboli, who works out of UBS’s office in London, was a senior trader with UBS Global Synthetic Equities. FSA, which is Britain’s financial watchdog, and FINMA, which is Switzerland’s, have instigated an investigation into the loss. UBS will pay for the probe, which will be conducted by an independent third party.

UBS is also investigating this trading loss but says that no client positions have been impacted. The financial firm has said that most of the risk exposure went undetected because bogus hedging positions were placed in the bank’s systems.

Adoboli’s arrest for “suspicion of fraud by abuse of position” is bringing up questions about UBS’s risk management systems, which are supposed to prevent unauthorized trading. It was just in 2008 that UBS wrote down $50 billion in securities trades, leading to losses of 34.4 billion francs. That was the year that the Swiss Central Bank had to rescue UBS, which then closed down significant parts of its trading division and revised its risk-management systems.

News of Adoboli’s alleged fraud and the $2B loss has caused shares in UBS to drop, while the expense of insuring its 5-year bonds against default for a year became expanded by 15 basis points to 225 basis points. According to Reuters, analysts are saying that that this latest loss is the “final nail in the coffin” for UBS, which has had to deal with plunging markets, strict new regulation, and a Swiss franc that has gotten stronger.

Moody’s and Standard Poor’s now say that UBS’s credit rating is on negative watch. Meantime, Fitch says it has the financial firm’s viability rating on negative watch and that this latest incident only lends to the argument that UBS needs to downsize its investment banking unit.

The $2B loss and Adoboli’s arrest is unfortunate for UBS, which had just started to regain client confidence this year. This huge loss has pretty much cost the financial firm its first year of saving that was supposed to come from a cost-cutting plan involving the elimination of 3,500 jobs. UBS Chief Executive Oswald Gruebel and Chairman Carten Kengeter, who is the head of UBS’s investment bank division, are also now under fire. Gruebel has dismissed calls to step down.

UBS Raises Tally on Losses, Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2011
UBS trader charged with $2 billion fraud, Reuters, September 16, 2011

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UBS to Pay $2.2M to CNA Financial Head for Lehman Brothers Structured Product Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 4, 2011
UBS Financial Reaches $160M Settlement with the SEC and Justice Department Over Securities Fraud, Antitrust, and Other Charges Related to Municipal Bond, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, May 16, 2011
Our stockbroker fraud law firm represents clients that have suffered investment losses because of securities fraud and other forms of financial misconduct. Unfortunately, there are investment advisers, traders, and brokers that do defraud investors in an attempt to turn a profit. Broker inexperience can also lead to mistakes resulting in losses for investors. This, too, can be grounds for an investment fraud case.

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