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Morgan Stanley's IT failed to detect £61m rogue trader

Morgan Stanley's IT failed to detect £61m rogue trader

Analysts highlight need for much stronger controls

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Morgan Stanley’s IT systems were at the heart of a failure to prevent a rogue trader in London from costing the company $120 million (£61 million), Computerworld UK has learnt.

A spokesperson at Morgan Stanley said it was “not an IT system" that identified the problem, indicating that a human had spotted that the trader was falsely booking values of credit derivative products.

The Morgan Stanley trader, reportedly identified as Matt Piper, is suspected of increasing the value of his derivatives book in order to make his performance appear more impressive, according to the Financial Times. The problem was identified in May, when the company immediately alerted regulator the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and suspended the trader.

In a statement, Morgan Stanley said: “The firm became aware of marks in a London based trader's book that were inconsistent with firm policies. The trader was immediately suspended.

“We informed the FSA and are currently conducting a full internal review of this matter. The amount of the mismark was approximately $120 million [£61 million]." The FSA said it could not comment on investigations.

The £61 million is significantly less than the £3.6 billion lost from Societe Generale by rogue trader Jerome Kerviel revealed in January. But analysts urged that lessons still had to be learnt by trading firms. IT-based controls at trading firms need to become much stronger to prevent these situations from happening, analysts agreed.

Firms were “not taking seriously enough” threats from their own traders, said Ralph Silva, senior analyst at financial services advisory firm Tower Group.

The cost of preventing rogue trades, through implementing technology to detect and stop rogue trades immediately, is far less than the possible financial implications caused by the trades, he said.

But there was a fundamental cultural problem in trading firms, where they were loathe to put in extra controls in case it meant they lost their edge over rivals. “They don’t want too many controls or it would kill aggressiveness,” he said. “But the problem is that traders are held at such high esteem, they have carte blanche to do what they want.”

“Trading firms are taking a minimalistic approach to solving the problem, forced to take some action because Basel II [regulation] has an operational risk component. But they’re not giving it the same attention as other areas of risk. This is not going to be the last time this happens.”

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