UBS (NYSEArca: DJCI - news) is braced for a record multi-million pound fine for failures in its systems and controls that allowed former employee Kweku Adoboli to conduct Britain’s biggest bank fraud.
The Swiss bank is “ready to settle” with the Financial Services Authority which has restarted its enforcement procedures after the criminal case dramatically ended with Mr Adoboli, the “master frauster”, being jailed for seven years on Tuesday night.
Experts warned that the fine is likely to be “tens of millions” of pounds for multiple failures of systems, controls and supervision that allowed Mr Adoboli to clock up £1.4bn losses - the largest unauthorised trading loss in British history.
The biggest fine for systems failures was £8m levied against UBS Wealth Management. However, insiders said UBS is expecting the fine to be closer to the FSA’s biggest ever fine of £59.5m levied on Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) . Although the fine part of Barclays £290m transtlantic settlement of Libor rigging claims, the bank was criticised for systems and control failures.
The FSA and the Swiss regulator, Finma, started investigating UBS in February. In the UK, a report conducted by KPMG on behalf of the FSA has formed the basis of the regulator’s investigation. As a result the bulk of the enforcement is already complete with just few more details to add which could not be conducted while the criminal case was on-going.
The FSA declined to comment except to say: “The investigation is on-going.” Finma publicly censures but can not levy fines.
Prosecutors described Mr Adoboli, who was born in Ghana and educated in England, as a “master frauster” and compulsive gambler who ran up losses of £123,000 of his own money on top of UBS’s losses. He hid his trades telling “carefully crafted, deliberate, detailed and sophisticated lies.”
However UBS was also exposed as having lapse controls that failed to detect the fraud for more three years. Mr Adoboli took advantage of UBS’s back-office procedures that regularly did not check trades until just before settlement, often around 27 days by which time he cancelled the trade and opened a new one.
The rogue trading only ended when Mr Adoboli wrote a “bombshell” email in September 2011 confessing to his activites. In court it emerged his losses had peaked at around $12bn - enough to bankrupt UBS.
In a presentation posted on its website on Tuesday, the bank said: “In May 2012 our management confirmed the weakness in internal controls over financial reporting had been fixed.”