Professional Risk Manager (PRM) Designation

ARCHIVED 4 AUGUST 2021: Case Studies and Standards

The following resources are publicly available. These reading list items should be combined with the Professional Risk Managers' Handbooks.

*Case Studies that are indicated with an asterisk (*) have been prioritized by the PRMIA Education Committee for inclusion in the 2019 PRM examination program.

As additional case studies are published for inclusion in the 2019 PRM examination program, current PRM candidates will receive notification via email from [email protected]

Sample test questions are now available.  

Case Studies


Standards and Practices

Case Study Overview

Unauthorized Trading


  • £827
  • 1995
  • Unauthorized trading in derivatives by Nick Leeson in its Singapore subsidiary completely wiped out the bank’s capital of £200 million
  • Failures: No segregation of duties. Internal audit report not heeded. Doubts raised by Singapore Futures Exchange (SIMEX) ignored. Excessive profits not investigated.
China Aviation Oil
  • $550MM
  • 2004
  • Use of derivatives for hedging becomes unauthorized speculation using leveraged derivatives, resulting in the collapse of the company (which imports nearly 100% of the jet fuel for China's civil aviation industry)
  • Sub-standard risk pricing and risk management
  • CEO Chen Juilin and other senior executives manipulate the company’s financial statements to conceal the losses
  • Over $1.5B
  • 1993
  • Hedges adequately transferred the market risk created by their underlying commercial forward contracts, but MGRM exposed themselves to risk of not being able to fund margin calls if the value of the hedges fell.
  • Company held enormous and out-sized positions in the markets, hence liquidity was insufficient to allow timely risk management
National Australia Bank - FX Options
  • $535MM
  • 2004
  • Four currency traders smoothed profits and concealed losses for over two years, and possibly five years. The traders entered fake transactions into their trading system. Various methods were used which exploited gaps in many controls: incorrectly recording genuine transactions, entering false transactions, and using incorrect revaluation rates. Exploitation of end-day timing gap between position marks and back-office controls. Use of internal transactions that received less scrutiny.
  • While size of positions was partially masked, VaR limits were still breached continuously but did not trigger an investigation due to deemed lack of reliability of VaR calculation
  • Warning signs raised in internal audit report did not reach senior management; concerns raised by counterparties not sufficiently investigated
  • Desk supervision was inadequate to monitor trading vs approved strategies
Product Design and/or Sales Practices
Bankers Trust
  • $288MM
  • 1996
  • Bank sued by four of its major clients, who asserted that Bankers Trust had misled them with respect to the riskiness and value of derivatives that they had purchased from the bank.
  • Reputation damage greater than financial loss
Orange County
  • $1.7B
  • 1994
  • This prosperous California county filed for bankruptcy after losing $1.6B on leveraged derivatives transactions involving its major investment pool.
  • Supervision of the County treasurer lacked financial sophistication and received inadequate reporting; Treasurer’s superior performance in prior years resulted in excessive trust.
Conflicts of Interest
  • 2002
  • Very rapid pace of acquisitions and poor integration of acquired companies.
  • Optimistic interpretation of accounting rules, facilitated by lax external auditors. WorldCom eventually made a $9 billion adjustment for the period from 1999 thorough the first quarter of 2002.
  • Potential conflicts of interest due to multiple relationships between different arms of large integrated banks (investment, trading, lending, private banking), WorldCom and WorldCom’s senior management.
  • Conflicts of interest between equity analysts responsibilities to investors and power attracting investment banking business. (In December 2002, Jack Grubman of Citigroup was fined $15 million and banned from securities transactions for life by the Securities and Exchange Commission).
Credit Boundary Events

Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac

  • Billions in US gov’t support
  • 2008
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac placed under conservatorship by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)
  • Risk models did not reflect loosened underwriting standards of mortgage originators
  • Political pressure to facilitate origination of loans to increasingly risky customers
  • History of Fannie and Freddie resulted in confusion about implicit gov’t guarantee
Bankgesellschaft Berlin
  • E 2B to E 37B (best estimate E 3.7B to E 8B)
  • 2001
  • Credit risk boundary event
  • Bank created real estate funds, heavily concentrated in Berlin, with mispriced guaranteed returns to investors
  • Complex private/government management structure created unusual incentives for senior management
  • Regional political upheaval
Washington Mutual (WAMU)
  • 2008
  • The company’s biggest stumble “was a late entry into the subprime market as a way to juice the once fast‐growing company’s sluggish earnings,” The Wall Street Journal noted. Ill fated acquisitions in the sub-prime space exacerbated that move.
  • In September 2008, regulators seized WaMu while the bank’s management team was on a commercial air flight.
Liquidity Mismanagement
Long Term Capital Management (LTCM)
  • Over $20B
  • 1998
  • Liquidity squeeze of a major hedge-fund via margin calls on trading positions; pricing transparency was reduced in thin markets; market liquidity made worse because counterparties were reluctant to buy positions or securities fearing that LTCM would dump more on the market rapidly.
  • Systemic risk if cross-defaults provisions were triggered; prompted Federal Reserve to broker an industry agreement to save LTCM through a $3.625B recapitalization
  • LTCM models did not work if prices were discontinuous
Northern Rock
  • £13 billion infusion of taxpayer money
  • 2008
  • Britain's first bank run in 140 years
  • Liquidity crisis caused by the mismatch between the bank’s reliance on short-term wholesale sources of funds and its uses of funds (which were only short-term as long as securitization markets were sufficiently liquid to allow asset sales).
  • Having failed to find a commercial buyer, it was taken into public ownership in 2008, and was then bought by Virgin Money in 2012
Inadequate Risk Oversight
  • Taisei was forced into bankruptcy, when all four planes that crashed during the 9/11 attack were insured by a reinsurance pool established by Taesei and two other major Japanese insurers.
  • The pool was inadequately reinsured for catastrophic losses
  • Taesei management did not understand pool management’s reinsurance practices or the resulting differences between accounting results and true economic risk results

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