2002: Whale Rider – Caro
It is always a “bit concerning”, when those paid to look after money get their maths badly wrong. However it seems that JP Morgan has taken this to a new level. They announced that their losses were double the amount previously stated. We aren’t talking small sums or the odd decimal point, but £2.8bn.
The “London Whale” (not the Olympic stadium) was a JP Morgan trader called Bruno Iksil who had got his positions significantly wrong. He was trading in the more “awkward end” of financial products – credit default swaps. However it appears that other traders were also concealing the scale of their own losses as well. As a result, just 45 minutes before releasing the Q2 results, the Q1 statement has been revised or “restated” in their language (which seems like spin if ever there was to me). Now frankly, I don’t see much difference between this and fixing Libor, the issue is one of deceit. At a corporate level, there appears to be a complete lack of robust systems and controls that are worthwhile. I know that many traders are very clever people and under the wrong pressure may seek out loopholes or weaknesses in the system. This begs the important question, why is it so difficult to be honest in some of these large investment banks, where the premise is that markets rise and fall, they are in the business of risk and surely know that all decisions cannot be right. I suggest that they re-read their own business principles document and apply them.
It may not surprise you to learn that it doesn’t matter to me how “great” a fund or product is that is marketed by organisations such as these. I will not be deliberately exposing clients to the investment “expertise” of organisations where there is continued suspicion about behaviour and the integrity of vital numbers, and yes I don’t really care how many “ring fences” are in place, it isn’t on.
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