After studying Philosophy and Literature at university, I wasn’t sure what my next step would be. I had considered following a career in law, banking or management consultancy among other things. But, after attending a Herbert Smith Freehills presentation, my decision was made. I liked the people I met, I liked the sound of the work and – even though I come from a more conceptual background academically than most of my colleagues – it related well to what I had studied. From Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, to Plato’s ‘Republic’, to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the concepts I covered and the skills I developed transferred well and allowed me to approach our work from a different perspective.
On 14 September 2011, UBS discovered that one of its traders had been hiding trades from the Bank's systems and had amassed concealed losses of US$2.3 billion. This was the largest unauthorised loss in British banking history. The bank immediately called HSF to guide it through the crisis that would ensue, even before the story had broken to the press. HSF interviewed the trader that night and advised the bank on what followed over the next 15 months – which was a huge internal investigation, a regulatory investigation, a criminal trial (and appeal) and a US class action lawsuit.
I was involved in the case from the very start. The immediate task at hand was to find all of the relevant documents and interview the witnesses involved in the case. This enabled the bank to know what had gone wrong, who was involved and in what way, and what it needed to do to rectify the position. I was involved in preparing for or conducting many of these interviews; and I managed a large team of lawyers who were reviewing emails and chat conversations to find evidence. When the trader pleaded "Not Guilty", a criminal trial became inevitable. My role on the trial was to prepare dozens of witness statements, manage the process of disclosure to the Crown Prosecution Service, and to attend every day of the trial to report back to the bank's board of directors. I worked on this case full time for around 15 months and so knew every detail of how the fraud took place.
After a 10 week trial at Southwark Crown Court, Kweku Adoboli was convicted of two counts of fraud by abuse of position. The size of the losses, the intrigue of the story and the fact that it was the first major trial of a banker after the financial crash meant that there was a huge amount of press coverage around this case. As I was on the tube going home after the final day of the trial, I remember every newspaper carrying a picture of the trader on their front page.
Shortly after the trial we assisted the bank in settling regulatory enforcement action taken by the financial services regulator. A US class action lawsuit was filed but the bank successfully dismissed this. The trader appealed his conviction and sentence to the Criminal Court of Appeal, but this was dismissed as well.
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