Friday 18 January 2019

'Rogue trader' Leeson now advises debtors of Ireland's toxic banks

WEATHERING ADVERSITY: Nick Leeson, who is returning to business 18 years after losing $1.3bn betting on risky trades.
WEATHERING ADVERSITY: Nick Leeson, who is returning to business 18 years after losing $1.3bn betting on risky trades.

Tom Lyons

THE original 'rogue trader' Nick Leeson has re-emerged in business as an advisor to distressed borrowers trying to deal with Ireland's toxic banks.

Mr Leeson, who has lived in Ireland for the last 10 years, has become a one-third partner in the GDP partnership along with Conor Devine, a chartered surveyor, and James Gibbons, a solicitor.

The business, which is based on Harcourt Street in Dublin, will advise borrowers with debts of more than €1m on how to mediate consensual solutions with their banks to ensure they can move on with their lives as quickly as possible.

"Banks in Ireland were part of the problem by lending recklessly and now they have to be part of the solution," Mr Leeson said.

Mr Leeson said he had joined up with Mr Devine and Mr Gibbons in their Dublin business because he had been impressed by their ability to broker solutions, often involving debt relief, for their clients in the North.

Mr Leeson lost $1.3bn betting on risky trades in 1995, causing Barings Bank to collapse after 233 years in business. Its clients included Queen Elizabeth.

After serving a prison sentence, Mr Leeson beat cancer and reinvented himself living in Galway as an after-dinner speaker on risk management.

His story was turned into a movie starring Ewan McGregor. GDP is his first step back into business 18 years later.

"I've faced difficulties and adversity in my past," Mr Leeson said, "and I've worked my way through it. The longer you sit in the dark and don't deal with a situation, the more difficult it becomes."

GDP has a separate established business in the North, where it has helped borrowers with average debts of €5m up to clients with debts of more than €200m.

"We are independent and do not work with any bank or Nama so we have no conflicts of interest," Mr Devine said. He said GDP charged a small fee upfront but most of its earnings came from achieving results that its clients were satisfied with.

"We want to tell people that it's not just about being solvent or going bankrupt," Mr Gibbons said. "There are other solutions available through mediation. Ultimately it is possible to work things out to the satisfaction of both the borrower and their banks."

"People are in terrible situations," Mr Leeson said, "But there are things that can be done. . . I know what it is like when things go wrong."

Mr Devine said GDP helped borrowers produce realistic plans for their bankers that could include anything from finding them new investors to getting debt write-offs.

"Banks don't want to bankrupt their clients. What they want is consensual processes that are carried out in an open and transparent way," he said.

Irish Independent

Also in Business