Back in the early 1990s, an amazing and incredulous thing happened. With a series of trades, and over the course of a few weeks, a single options trader for an international merchant bank managed to bring into bankruptcy one of the most famous banks of England, as well as put into turmoil the entire Asian public trading market.
Nick Leeson, through trading derivatives, completely lost all of Barings Bank’s holdings on speculative trades, and he burned through 827 billion British pounds by the time he was finished. Leeson argued he was authorized, but everyone involved, including the authorities, quickly went after Leeson as the instigator.
While he tried to hide for a while, sneaking out of Asia and eventually making it to Germany while triggering an international chase and Interpol warrants, Leeson was eventually arrested in Frankfurt and sent back to Singapore for trial and prison.
Leeson served 6½ years in prison and was released in 1999, sick with colon cancer. Many people, especially his doctors, did not expect him to live very long. However, just as in his trades, Leeson managed to beat the odds again, and his cancer went into remission. Leeson’s original wife divorced him while he was in prison, but he remarried again in 2003 and relocated to Ireland.
Settling down into a new life, Leeson traded on his past and earned a comfortable income giving speeches about his financial deals and his thoughts on financial markets, similar to another former-criminal-become-seminar-speaker, Michael Milken, the junk-bond king of the 1980s. Even more amazing, Leeson managed to get himself into the management of a local football club and eventually become its CEO. But in 2011, he abruptly quit.
Today, despite all that happened in Singapore and his permanent fame in the hallways of financial ill repute, Lesson still lives quietly in Ireland, making an occasional TV appearance on Irish programs when not giving his regular speeches.