Behind the scenes at UBS

September 26, 2011

Emma Thomasson and Edward Taylor tell the inside story of UBS’s turbulent week in today’s second special report “How a rogue trader crashed UBS.

UBS chief Oswald Gruebel’s decision to resign after the bank said a rogue trader lost as much as $2.3 billion was not just a response to the immediate crisis. It was also an admission that the bank’s latest scandal has effectively undone all his efforts over the past two years to lobby against tougher bank regulations.

The alleged rogue trades have killed any remaining ambitions UBS might have to compete with the titans of Wall Street. They also cast a huge shadow across the entire industry and make tough new regulations far more likely, as the 67-year-old hinted in a memo to staff after he quit. “That it was possible for one of our traders in London to inflict a multi-billion loss on our bank through unauthorised trading shocked me, as it did everyone else, deeply. This incident has worldwide repercussions, including political ones,” he wrote.

After a round of job cuts, the recent events sparked some gallows humor in the banking world. As one senior banker in Zurich put it:

“The joke going around is that Gruebel didn’t need to sack 3,500 people to save 2 billion. He could have just sacked ONE.”

UBS had only recently started to win back the trust of its wealthy private banking clients after risky bets on subprime mortgages came close to felling it in the financial crisis of 2008, as this graphic shows:

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/