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Rogue Trader


A rogue trader is a person who makes unauthorized and potentially hazardous financial transactions, often resulting in significant losses for their employer. This individual trades independently and without oversight, usually violating the company’s policies and procedures. The risky and unauthorized nature of their actions can have serious consequences for both the individual and the organization.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Rogue Trader” is: rohg trey-der.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Rogue Trader is a story about the rise and fall of Nick Leeson, an employee with the Barings Bank, who single-handedly brought about the bank’s bankruptcy due to his illegal and unauthorised speculative trading.
  2. Rogue Trader illustrates the lack of oversight in the financial trading sector during the 1990s. Leeson’s activities went undetected for a significant period, which allowed his losses to escalate to an uncontrollable level.
  3. The film brings attention to the issue of individual responsibility versus institutional responsibility in financial crises. While Leeson was held accountable for his actions, the lack of controls and risk management measures at Barings Bank are equally at fault.

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The term “Rogue Trader” is significant in the field of business and finance because it denotes a investor or broker who engages in unauthorized and often hazardous trading. These individuals risk the financial health of the organizations they represent by making unofficial deals, often driven by the motivation for personal gain. Rogue traders can result in substantial financial losses for companies, damaging their credibility and reputation in the market. Infamous instances, such as the 1995 collapse of Barings Bank due to unauthorized speculative trades by Nick Leeson, demonstrate the severe consequences of rogue trading. Understanding this term is crucial for businesses in order to develop risk management strategies and safeguards against such misconduct.


Rogue traders are players in the financial industry whose activities are not authorized by their employers. They are purposefully engaging in risky financial transactions despite knowing the potential for substantial losses. The risky behavior of rogue traders serves their personal objectives, often driven by the desire for financial gain, job security, or career advancement. By exploiting loopholes or weaknesses in their company’s risk management system, they can create a portfolio that’s on the edge of high risk.The significant purpose of a rogue trader’s activities is personal gain. They take high risk for a high reward, betting on risky market conditions, hoping that the turns in the market will favor their trades. While they can bring profits to the company if successful, they are more known for the immense financial losses they can inflict on their firms when their trades go south. Nick Leeson, who brought down Barings Bank in 1995, and Jerome Kerviel of Societe Generale are examples of rogue traders whose actions led to enormous financial disasters.


1. Nick Leeson – The most well-known rogue trader, Nick Leeson, was an employee of Barings Bank, one of the most prestigious banks in the United Kingdom. In 1995, he made speculative trades that resulted in losses exceeding $1 billion, which led to the collapse of the bank. Leeson had been secretly making unauthorized and highly risky trades in the futures markets, bending the rules for his own profit.2. Jérôme Kerviel – In 2008, French trader Jérôme Kerviel made unauthorized trades worth nearly €50 billion while working for Société Générale. His unauthorized dealings lost the bank approximately €4.9 billion. Kerviel initially made the bank a lot of money with his high-risk trading strategy, but when the market conditions changed, his positions were dramatically exposed, leading to one of the biggest trading losses in history.3. Yasuo Hamanaka – Working for Sumitomo Corporation, one of the largest trading companies in Japan, Hamanaka lost the company around $2.6 billion through unauthorized copper trades over a 10-year period. He was able to hide his activity by exploiting weak internal controls and using his position as head of the company’s copper trading division.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Rogue Trader?

A Rogue Trader is an employee who makes unauthorized and risky financial transactions, often resulting in a significant loss for the employer. Their actions are not aligned with the company’s financial risk policies and strategies.

Why is a Rogue Trader considered dangerous for a company?

A Rogue Trader can pose a huge risk to a company because they make unsanctioned trading decisions that can lead to substantial financial losses. These actions can damage a company’s reputation, destabilize the financial market, and may lead to legal consequences.

Can you give an example of a famous Rogue Trader case?

An infamous example of a Rogue Trader is the case of Nick Leeson, who brought down Barings Bank, the oldest investment bank in the UK, in the 1990s. He made illegal trades that resulted in losses of over £800 million for the bank.

How can a company prevent rogue trading?

Companies can take several steps to prevent rogue trading, such as setting up robust internal controls, regularly auditing trading activities, enforcing a clear segregation of duties, employing advanced analytic systems to detect unusual trading patterns, and creating a culture where employees are encouraged to report suspicious activities.

What happens to a rogue trader when caught?

When caught, a rogue trader can face severe penalties such as job loss, substantial fines, and even imprisonment. They may also face legal charges like fraud or embezzlement. The exact repercussions depend on the degree of the fraudulent activity and the laws of the country where the activity took place.

How can a Rogue Trader impact the financial market?

Rogue Traders can destabilize the financial markets by causing sharp price swings and increased volatility. Large scale rogue trading can undermine investor confidence and may lead to regulatory changes in the financial industry.

What motivates someone to become a Rogue Trader?

The motivations can vary. In some cases, it could be a desire to cover up a previous trading mistake, an attempt to earn a large bonus or a misguided belief in their ability to beat the market. It could also be due to a lack of understanding or disregard for the rules and regulations set up by the company.

Related Finance Terms

  • Unauthorized Trading: This refers to any trading activity that is not sanctioned or approved by the organization. It is one of the main activities that classify a trader as a ‘rogue’.
  • Operational Risk: This term refers to the risk of loss resulting from inadequate or failed processes, people and systems or from external events. Rogue traders pose a significant operational risk to financial institutions.
  • Internal Controls: These are processes set by an institution to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of objectives in effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of financial reporting, and compliance with laws, regulations and policies. Rogue traders often circumvent these controls.
  • Market Manipulation: This is a type of fraud where the prices of securities are artificially inflated or deflated to make quick profits. Rogue traders may engage in this behaviour.
  • Compliance: This means adhering to laws, policies, and regulations that govern business operations. Rogue traders often violate compliance rules and regulations.

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