A Reg-reading techie, a high street bank, some iffy production code – and a financial crash

We're not saying the last one is connected, but....

Business man gets the fear

Code Red Though there has been much handwringing and finger-pointing over what caused the last financial crash, one Reg reader experienced at first hand the type of muppetry that no doubt played a part.

The reader, who requested anonymity and so shall be called Bob, was a bright-eyed new recruit at an unnamed UK high street bank. His duties included working on the risk management system.

Because he was a conscientious chap, Bob was reviewing some production code when he came across this gem (reproduced in pseudo-ish code):

foreach POSITION in TRADER.POSITIONS
{
    TOTAL_EXPOSURE = POSITION.EXPOSURE;
}

Eagle-eyed readers will note a critical character missing, namely a "+". Rather than totalling up a trader's exposure on the markets, the production code simply returned the last position, giving what would likely be an entirely false report on the bank's total exposure.

Bob took the code to his manager, who turned a shade normally reserved for the recently deceased before ushering Bob out of the office, assuring him that the problem would be dealt with and uttering the words: "Speak of this to no one..."

Apparently a scene resembling the arrival of the Child Detection Agency of Monsters Inc. followed, and the codebase was rapidly scrubbed. Bob, however, didn't stick around. He wisely moved on within a few months, leaving the final outcome shrouded in mystery. ®

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