Bond Bombshell

Cost of a gamble: $250 million

It started as a mistake, by all signs an honest one, but it grew into a Wall Street disaster. A 36-year-old senior bond trader at Merrill Lynch apparently lost his cool last month when rising interest rates started rapidly eroding the value of his $900 million portfolio. Instead of liquidating the securities and taking the loss, as most of his colleagues on Wall Street were doing, the Merrill Lynch trader seemingly gambled on a go-for-broke strategy. Without his employer's permission, he plunged in deeper, buying up $800 million more of the securities in the hope that an interest-rate turnaround would bring...

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