UBS risk culture under scrutiny in Adoboli trial

City A.M. Reporter
A CULTURE existed at UBS where traders felt they could ignore risk limits as long as they were making money for the Swiss bank, the lawyer for accused “rogue trader” Kweku Adoboli told Southwark Crown Court yesterday.

Adoboli, 32, was arrested on 15 September 2011, and is now on trial accused of fraud and false accounting that cost UBS $2.3bn (£1.4bn). He has pleaded not guilty.

The hearing yesterday laid bare the human drama behind the jargon of the trading floor, with Adoboli at one point in tears at the back of the courtroom under the emotional impact of the evidence that was presented to the jury.

In particular, Adoboli heard his lawyer read out long excerpts from his performance appraisals, in which he was described as an outstanding and popular member of UBS staff with a great future ahead of him.

“He could explain ETFs (exchange traded funds) to my Nan and she’d get it,” wrote colleague Rob Pienaar in one appraisal.

Adoboli also watched Ronald Greenidge, a former boss with whom he had friendly relations, face a barrage of tricky questions from his own lawyer, Charles Sherrard. At one point during the tough cross-examination, Greenidge became unwell and had to be helped to a chair by a court usher. The hearing was adjourned for about half an hour.

The thrust of the argument, expressed through Sherrard’s questions, was that the bank had turned a blind eye to traders exceeding risk limits in the pursuit of ever greater profits.

Sherrard read out an electronic chat that took place between Adoboli and Greenidge on April 14, 2011, in which Adoboli made it clear he was finishing the trading day with a risk exposure of $40m, beyond his desk’s agreed $25m overnight limit. Greenidge did not raise any questions about that.