Tears of a Trader: Adoboli Breaks Down on Stand
October 26, 2012
Kweku Adoboli, the former UBS AG trader accused of causing the largest unauthorized trading loss in British history, broke down crying moments after taking the stand for the first time at his London trial.
He testified after prosecutors added two more counts of false accounting to his indictment. He pleaded not guilty.
Adoboli told jurors about his childhood in Ghana and living in various places around the world, including Israel and Syria, as the son of a United Nations official. He wept when his lawyer Paul Garlick pointed out that his father had attended every day of his trial.
“At an early age I learned to take responsibility” with his father often away on work assignments, Adoboli said. “I was often told -- make sure you look after your mother and your sister.”
Adoboli, 32, is accused of hiding the risk of his trades by booking fake hedges, causing the Swiss bank a $2.3 billion trading loss. He was charged in September of last year with two counts each of fraud and false accounting. Today’s further charges cover the prosecution’s claims Adoboli created an account where he parked trading profits to cover future losses while working on the UBS exchange-traded funds desk in London.
Adoboli said he moved with his family from Accra, to Jerusalem at the age of four, and to Damascus, when he was eight because of his father’s job. The family later returned to Accra before he was sent to boarding school in England at the age of 12.
After boarding school, Adoboli went to Nottingham University, got a summer internship at UBS in 2002 and joined the bank after graduating in 2003. The only other job he ever had was as a waiter.
He started at the bank working for the trade-settlements team and was offered a role in prime brokerage as a junior trader in 2005. It was “incredibly hard work” and rewarding, he said, and the bank continued to offer him new opportunities.
“In 2003, it felt like UBS was a family, it was an organization that was very bold, that was trying to grow, that was acquiring businesses all over the world, an organization that many of us were incredibly proud to work for,” Adoboli said. “Without asking for more opportunity, I was given more opportunities.”
In 2006, he was recruited to join the exchange-traded funds desk.
Ruwan Weerasekera, chief operating officer of securities at UBS’s investment bank, testified Oct. 9 that Adoboli booked tens of thousands of real and fake trades during the summer of 2011 that exposed UBS to losses that may have escalated to as much as $12 billion while on the ETF trading desk.