Baring Brothers and Company was founded in the City of London
in 1762 to become one of Britain's first merchant bank
s. It financed the Louisiana Purchase
when he needed money to finance his conquests. Until the day it collapsed it had a number of royal
families amongst its account holders, including Queen Elizabeth II
While I am absolutely certain you were not an account holder, you are probably aware of the circumstances surrounding its collapse in 1995. Nick Leeson, a 27 year old trader operating out of the Singapore office, had been secretly speculating on the side since he started out in 1992. Over the course of three years he and his traders were incredibly unlucky, but he hid his losses in a secret bank account numbered "88888" (in the film Rogue Trader we are led to believe that Nick, played by Ewan McGregor was chivalrously covering up the mistakes of his subordinates). These losses ballooned from two million pounds at the end of 1992 to 23 million (1993) to 208 million (1994). Ultimately he lost $1.4 billion by trading futures on the Japanese Nikkei Index, on the not-well-thought-out assumption that the Japanese market would rebound following the Kobe earthquake. It didn't (in 2004 it still hasn't). This was double the available operating capital of the bank, and consequently the bank collapsed. Nick Leeson fled to Malaysia, Brunei and then Germany, where he was caught, extradited back to Singapore and sentenced to six years imprisonment for fraud. Part of the blame went to Baring's own internal auditing and risk management practices which had given a blind eye to the activites of trader's own irregular practices of covering up their own losses to avoid embarrassment, and that the two hats of general manager and head trader that Nick Leeson wore was a conflict of interest in itself.
The bank suspended trading before folding in February 1996. In March the carcass was sold to the Dutch bank ING for £1.