Nick Leeson, rogue trader who brought down Barings Bank, makes comeback as private spy
Nick Leeson, the ex-derivatives trader who brought down Barings Bank, has joined a corporate intelligence firm run by Harvey Weinstein’s former private investigator.
Mr Leeson, who described himself as the “original rogue trader”, has joined London-based Red Mist to help investors seek compensation in court when regulators are unable to help.
The company has been set up by Seth Freedman, a former operative of controversial private spying agency Black Cube.
Mr Freedman’s career has included time as an undercover investigator for the disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. In 2018 he left Black Cube, which is run by veterans of Israeli intelligence, and set up Red Mist in 2021.
Mr Leeson, 56, brought down Barings Bank in Singapore in 1995 after amassing losses of about $1.4bn, which led to the bank’s failure and eventual sale to ING for £1.
A 1999 film starring Ewan McGregor was made about the scandal, based on his book.
Mr Leeson said: “I have also been on the other side of the equation and understand the psychology of some of the people involved.”
Mr Leeson said he hopes his past will help him track down people involved in similar activities.
He said: “It often doesn’t start out as fraud. In the beginning it’s a decision between pleasing everyone around them or highlighting the fact that they’re failing and something is going wrong with the organization. And that’s kind of how it happened at Barings.”
Mr Freedman said: “Leeson, who’s obviously had his own clashes with the regulators, knows the City inside out. He’s brilliant at forensic work. When it comes to listed companies fraud and unravelling what’s going on, you need to have people who are experts in markets.”
They say their clients include Nobu Su, a Taiwanese former shipping tycoon who served prison time for contempt of court, and who claims a UK bank failed to protect his interests in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Mr Freedman said: “We get the job done and we get investors their compensation. We are essentially guns for hire.”
Mr Leeson said Red Mist will be looking for opportunities where rising interest rates expose weaknesses in businesses that grew rapidly in better times.
He said: “There will be more of these cases where people have invested in companies that halve in value and they may have been coerced into the investment.”
The 56-year-old served about four years in Singaporean prison for attempting to cover up his bad trades at Barings Bank.
He said: “That will always be an intense embarrassment. But you’ve got to deal with that and move on. It doesn’t define me as a person.”
He now lives in the Irish city of Galway, where he has worked for a debt counselling company and Galway United Football Club, of which he was chief executive from 2007 until 2011. He is also an after-dinner speaker.
Mr Leeson and Mr Freedman were brought together by Mike Whitlow, an entrepreneur based in Cyprus who works with Red Mist as a forensic investigator.
It’s not the first time the company has brought a convicted trader on board.
In 2021, it hired the former UBS and Citigroup trader Tom Hayes, who was jailed for manipulating the London interbank offered rate. Mr Hayes maintains his innocence and is fighting to overturn his conviction.